A high-tech opportunity for secret balloting becomes available this Election Day to Maine voters with disabilities that prevent use of traditional voting booths.

“It’s a computer vote-by-phone system,” said Gorham Town Clerk Christina Silberman.

Mandated by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, the specialized voting system installed in polling places includes a fax machine and a telephone. A direct line connects the phone to the Maine Secretary of State’s office in Augusta.

In Gorham on Tuesday, Silberman connected and tested the equipment, which is located at all of Gorham’s voting districts.

An election warden will be available at each district in Gorham to lend a hand, connecting voters. The election warden will dial the phone and enter the appropriate poll and ballot numbers before handing the phone to a voter. A voter using the system also has the option of using a headset instead of the telephone. Following an instruction menu, voters will press digits on an enlarged phone keypad to vote.

Silberman estimates that the voting process would take between 5 and 10 minutes. It allows those with sight or mobility problem to cast an official secret ballot, Silberman said.

Once those utilizing the system finish voting, the fax machine generates a ballot. Each voter then inserts the ballot into a machine, just like those voting in a conventional booth. But the ballot will require being counted by hand.

Silberman is encouraging Gorham’s election workers to cast ballots by the new system. The vote-by -phone system is available to any voter. “If they get frustrated, they can hang up and get a regular ballot,” Silberman said.

Between now and the election, voters can practice from home by dialing a toll-free number, 1 866-491-8683. A greeting states that practicing is nearly identical to an actual voting experience. Callers practicing will have to enter a ballot ID number to proceed.

Those numbers are available through town clerks’ offices.

Cutline (ballot 1) Cutline (ballot 2 or 3)

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