i9: Disabled Voter Had Issues Voting

WEST LIBERTY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A Muscatine County woman, who is blind, says she ran into issues yesterday when she tried to vote. She reached out to I9 to look into what went wrong.

Kerry Gerhard of West Liberty may have voted in Tuesday's primary election, but she is still upset over what she went through to cast her ballot at the Muscatine County Fairgrounds with her friend, Sandi Henderson.

"I should be able to cast my ballot by myself," said Gerhard.

Gerhard is legally blind and has to use a special voting machine designed to assist people with disabilities like her's. Among its features is a headset that reads aloud the names of the candidates running for office. But Gerhard says when she put the headset on, "There was no voice."

It was at that point poll workers attempted to intervene, upsetting Gerhard. Henderson would end up stepping in to vote on Gerhard's behalf. And while Gerhard says she is grateful for her friend's help, she believes it never should have come to that.

I9 asked Leslie Soule the county auditor for Muscatine County what in her view may have gone wrong.

"I think what went wrong was the written instructions for running that machine," said Soule.

Soule reports the machine was working. The volume on headset had to be turned up. As for the poll workers, she believes they were simply trying to troubleshoot the issue and assist Gerhard in operating the machine properly.

"She was misinterpreting what they were doing," said Soule. "They weren't probably very good at explaining what they were doing because this is the first person they've ever dealt with this."

Both Muscatine County's and the Secretary of State's office tells I9 they've talked about Gergard's concerns and they're taking steps to address this situation.

The Secretary of State's office sent I9 a statement which said in part:

"We have spoken with both the Muscatine County Auditor’s Office and the voter about the experience at the polls yesterday. The good news is the voter was able to cast a regular ballot and that vote was counted. We also encouraged the county auditor to have county poll workers become more familiar with the process for voting with accessible equipment. The county auditor and our staff also discussed having a more private space available for voters who have someone assisting them, and updating directions for the accessible voting equipment that clarify a poll worker must initiate the voting session for the voter."