Douglas County works towards making voting accessible for all

We all want to make sure our vote is counted – but for some, it’s easier than others.
Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 10:35 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - We all want to make sure our vote is counted – but for some, it’s easier than others.

“Every election, we sit out and fill out the ballot together,” said Mark Siepker, father of Jeff Siepker.

When Jeff had a sudden change in his address, the two weren’t sure how to fill a ballot out on time.

“I called the Douglas County Election Commission office and asked them what I should do, and I explained the situation and that my son has intellectual developmental disabilities,” Mark said.

In search of a solution, they were instructed to come to the office.

"His son had moved at the last minute and wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to do,” said Ruth McWilliams, customer service coordinator.

As part of its commitment to accessible voting, the Douglas County Election Commission helped Jeff cast his ballot thanks to an “assistance oath.”

It allowed Mark to help read Jeff through the ballot from home this year.

"Anyone who’s assisting a voter -- whether they’re just reading the ballot or helping mark the ballot just so the ovals are filled in correctly -- they are just stating they’re doing what the voter asked or if they viewed the ballot, that they will keep that to themselves,” McWilliams explained.

But not everyone has a guardian at home like Jeff.

The election office can also help fill and sign ballots while signing the assistance oath, as well.

For those who want complete privacy, each voting precinct also has equipment from election systems and software.

An ADA assistance voting machine helps the visually and hearing impaired. It’s another way to make sure everyone’s vote is counted.

“The election commission is always open to helping those voters. We bring them straight to the front of the line. We try to get them in and out conveniently as possible,” McWilliams said.

The “Help America Vote” act requires states to provide voters with practical and effective means to cast an independent ballot.

Election officials say they strive to cater to each voter’s needs.

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