On Friday, April 10, ACB and more than 75 national, state and local disability and civil rights organizations sent a letter urging Congress to protect the voting rights of people who are blind and disabled during the current pandemic. The letter, which is available here, urged Congress to mandate an accessible online absentee voting system to be used by any state adopting vote by mail as an alternative to in-person elections at polling locations.
“Americans with disabilities have fought for decades to secure the same voting rights as all other Americans. Congress must make it clear to states that implementing vote by mail without offering an accessible absentee voting alternative for people with disabilities is not acceptable,” said ACB president Dan Spoone. “The current national emergency must not be leveraged as an excuse to erode the voting rights of people with disabilities. As states take pragmatic measures to rethink how elections will be administered, the rights of voters with disabilities must be maintained. This includes equal access to all parts of the voting process, from absentee voting to securely and independently marking, casting and verifying our ballot.”
There is no nationwide approach to creating accessible absentee ballots and as such, many voters with disabilities are excluded from absentee ballots. Some states have implemented accessible solutions to this problem, such as remote voting through the use of online and remote ballot marking devices. Earlier this year and in collaboration with ACB, Gov. Justice in West Virginia signed into law S.B. 94, a bill to bring the absentee vote by mail system in West Virginia into compliance with Title II of the ADA by offering an accessible electronic absentee voting option for people with disabilities.
“According to the CDC, 26% of Americans have a disability; ACB will continue to work tirelessly to ensure these Americans are able to fully participate in the most fundamental part of our democracy in the 2020 elections and beyond,” said Eric Bridges, ACB’s executive director.
The American Council of the Blind is a national grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired. With 70 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people.