Event Addresses Unique Issues Faced by Voters with Disabilities in the 2020 Election
WISCONSIN – Several nonprofit organizations hosted a joint event to bring awareness to issues faced by voters with disabilities on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Vision Forward, Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition, Disability Rights Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired teamed up to make sure people with vision loss are set up to have a successful voting experience this fall. They discussed barriers to voting in previous elections and the accessible voting options for the November 3 election.
“Vision loss should not be a barrier to fulfilling your right to vote,” says Denise Jess, CEO/Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired. “Many Wisconsinites who are blind or visually impaired face significant challenges to cast our ballots. While voters are being urged to vote absentee during the pandemic, this leaves those of us who cannot see the ballot unable to vote privately and independently.”
Wisconsin does not currently have an ADA-compliant, accessible absentee ballot, which means voters who are blind or visually impaired rely on someone else to assist them in marking their ballot. Wisconsin is among a declining number of states that do not offer an accessible absentee ballot option. Ideally, voters could complete their ballot using screen reader software on a computer and submit it online. Maryland currently sends some voters an accessible ballot via email so they can complete it, print it out and mail it in. Wisconsin City Clerks already have an option to email a ballot to voters, but a court recently ruled that this method only applies to voters who are in the military and/or overseas.
Voters who choose to vote in-person sometimes face malfunctioning or rarely used accessible voting machines. As non-drivers, transportation to polling places is another significant barrier to voting. Getting an ID and uploading a photo of it to verify identity at MyVote.WI.Gov is yet another challenge.
Community partners include Beyond Vision, ABLE, Center for Deaf-Blind Persons Inc., and the Industries for the Blind & Visually Impaired.
People can register to vote, request an absentee ballot and more at MyVote.WI.Gov. The Disability Rights Wisconsin Voter Hotline, 1-844-347-8683, is available to anyone who has a disability-related voting question or concern.