Accessible Voting By Telephone in Vermont

Vermont is on the verge of an “experiment” with a novel voting technology for voters who for whatever reason cannot vote using a traditional paper ballot — voting on a special telephone keypad in a voting booth. The techology, called “Inspire Vote-by-Phone, is costing the state $525,000 to purchase and $110,000 in annual maintanence fees. This voting system is produced by IVS LLC. The system, as described in a recent article in the Burlington Free Press, works as follows:

“A blind voter checks in at the polls and is escorted to the voting booth. The poll worker dials the central computer, punches in his or her identification number and the identification number for the local ballot — then hands the telephone to the voter and leaves the booth.

The voter receives instructions and makes selections among candidates listed by name and party affiliation. Most choices are made by punching the number “5” in the center of the telephone key pad. This key is often distinguishable from others by a raised bump.

The voter has many opportunities to verify the names of the candidates he or she has selected before punching a key that casts the ballot. There is even a chance to verify and scrap the ballot after casting it. A paper ballot is printed at the central server location and then scanned, and the voter may listen to selections marked on the paper ballot to double-check that they match the voter’s choices.”

Of course, this system requires that qualified voters actually show up at a polling place, which does raise some questions about whether some disabled voters might not be able to take advantage of this particular system.

If interested, there is a sample ballot that you can check out:

  • Dial 888-661-6366
  • Enter 1234 for the poll-taker identification number when prompted
  • Enter 101 for ballot identification number
  • Follow the instructions for casting votes

If any readers of Election Updates try this system and have question or comments, please email them to

This is an interesting approach to accessible voting, and we await some real data on how it works in Vermont. As far as we are aware, there are few studies of the use of audio technologies for voting, other than Ted Selker’s work on the “Voter Verifiable Audio Audit Transcript Trail” (VVAATT); now that there are at least two audio technologies for voting now proposed, it seems to us to be an opportunity for some experimental study of the relative merits of these different systems.