Oregon on Tuesday became the first state in the nation to use the iPad in the election process, allowing citizens in five counties to vote using the touch-screen tablet.
Although voting apps have popped up recently in the mobile phone market, Oregon is believed to have the first state program to offer the technology to some of its residents, according to election officials.
The pilot program allows senior citizens and voters with disabilities to use the sleek Apple interface to access a touch-screen ballot, adjust text size and color if necessary, and select their candidate by typing or by filling in “the bubbles with a pen,” State Elections Director Steve Trout told CNN on Tuesday.
It's all about convenience, Trout said, and making sure that voters with limited mobility can put their constitutional rights into practice.
And because it is less expensive than the system the state was using, the program saves dollars while it makes sense, he said.
“In government, it’s all about trying to do more with less,” Trout said.
Tuesday’s vote was a special primary to replace former U.S. Rep. David Wu, who stepped down in August amid a sex scandal.
“We thought it was a good, smaller-scale election to test something like this,” Trout said.
And though it’s way cool, voting via iPad could also be a psychological boon for senior citizens, according to Jerry Cohen, a spokesman for the Oregon AARP.
“Oregon has a much higher percentage of people 65 and older that use computers, so yes, I think there’s a very keen interest and a growing interest in technology from seniors in this state,” Cohen said.
“For our disabled voters that want to vote independently and have always wanted to do so, this is the outreach program to help them,” said Pam Benham, elections supervisor for Columbia County, where the pilot program was in use. Along with the iPad, a portable printer is used to turn the ballot into a hard copy that can be mailed, she said.
“We plan to be out at the senior centers in the short term. But as we get it up and going, we should be able to go back to the voter's home,” Benham said. “It’s going to take some coordination, and we’ll have to have the staff to go out and do that, but that’s the goal. It probably won’t happen until after January, though,” she said.
At the beginning of the year, the state will hold a general election. "We plan to utilize some of what we learn and actually put it to use in then,” Trout said.
What’s next? Hanging iChads?