FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Federation of the Blind of Iowa
to Honor Secretary of State Mike Mauro
Des Moines, Iowa (September 18, 2008): The National Federation of the Blind of Iowa announced today that it will present a Distinguished Service Award to Secretary of State Mike Mauro on Saturday, September 20, 2008, at the organization’s annual state convention banquet at the Renaissance Savery Hotel. The Distinguished Service Award is being presented to Secretary Mauro for his commitment to ensuring that all blind Iowans will have access to an accessible voting machine at all precincts in all local, state, and federal elections.
"In the fall elections of 2006, blind Iowans, for the first time, could vote using a secret ballot–or so we thought," said Michael Barber, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. "But in some of our precincts, we found that there were no accessible machines or none in working order when blind voters came to cast ballots in local and state elections."
"Last year, I was quite surprised to find that even though funds had been expended to provide accessible voting machines throughout the state, none were made available for the local election in Palo Alto county," said Richard Kelly, a blind resident of Emmetsburg. "I was told that while the machines were available, their use had not been mandated and I would be unable to cast a secret ballot like other voters in my county. I was told that if I wanted to vote in the local election, I could only do so with the assistance of someone else."
"We brought this and other incidents to Secretary of State Mike Mauro's attention immediately," said President Barber. "Mr. Mauro gave us his word that during the 2008 legislative session, he would tighten up the loopholes in the voting laws so that all elections, even those for school boards and other local elections, would be accessible for all Iowans."
Barber continued, "Mr. Mauro was as good as his word. It is now a requirement here in Iowa that all elections make available an accessible voting machine with which a blind person can cast a secret ballot. We no longer need to rely on someone else to mark our ballots."
"We, the blind of Iowa, wish to thank Secretary of State Mauro for keeping his word," Barber said. "Secretary Mauro deserves the award that we will be presenting this Saturday."
The National Federation of the Blind of Iowa is an organization of blind and sighted individuals working to advance the general welfare of the blind of Iowa and the nation. Under the motto, "We are changing what it means to be blind," the organization educates the public about the ability of persons who are blind to lead productive and self-sufficient lives and advocates for the rights of blind people.