In a democratic country like the United States, elections are considered one of the most auspicious events. But to make sure an election event is successful, one must see whether there was a fair voting system or not.
But what does a fair voting system mean? It means that everyone legally eligible should have the right and access to voting.
Mail-in voting and absentee ballots were considered appropriate alternatives to help cast their votes. Although millions of people in the country used these voting methods, not everyone could leverage them. For example, people with disabilities had no clue how to cast their votes with these methods.
This is because both mail-in voting and absentee ballot method has traditionally involved filling out a paper request and a paper ballot. But neither of these actions is easy for people with disabilities. This will not only make those people feel separated from the community but also raises a question mark to the fairness of the elections.
In this article, we will be talking about why it is important to make absentee ballot applications accessible to people with disabilities.
Reasons why making absentee ballot applications accessible to people with disabilities is important
Reason 1. Because it is written in the law
Absentee ballots, along with absentee ballot applications and election websites, fall under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to it, a government program, activity, or service must be accessible to all, including people with disabilities.
Reason 2. The number of people with disabilities is increasing
One of the main reasons why people tend to underestimate the importance of accessibility for the disabled in elections is because they think that there are very few people with these challenges.
But that is not true. If you look at the stats, there are more than 38 million eligible voters who have some sort of disability. And just because of the lack of accessibility, they are unable to cast their votes.
Reason 3. To ensure privacy
Privacy has been one of the top most priorities in elections right from the start. But due to lack of accessible voting, privacy is ignored for people with disabilities.
For example, a visually impaired eligible voter has all the rights to cast their vote. But in the absence of an accessible absentee ballot system, they must seek help from other voters or election staff to cast their vote. This makes them share their vote decisions with that assisting person.
This simply contradicts the rule of elections which is; every voter must cast their votes privately. Also, there are chances that the person assisting this disabled voter can influence or change his decisions, which is also against the election rules.
Reason 4. Not everyone can request an absentee ballot application
Voters must request the absentee ballot application and then fill it out and submit it to be able to cast their votes in the elections. Different eligible voters can have different kinds of disabilities and some of them may not be able to request the absentee ballot application.
To properly eliminate this issue, making absentee ballot applications accessible for the disabled is of utmost importance. Many disability rights advocates have appealed that these applications should be sent to every disabled voter’s home automatically, instead of them taking great risks to request these applications. If not, voters should be able to request the applications more easily and conveniently through their mobile.
How to make absentee ballot applications accessible for people with disabilities?
Throughout the article, we talked enough about the importance of making accessible absentee ballot applications to people with disabilities. Now, it’s time we know how to do that.
Let everybody request a mail-in ballot online
States in the USA have a complex, opt-in system, for voting by mail where voters must request a ballot application to cast their votes. Unfortunately, there is no separate rule for people with disabilities. This not only causes them a lot of trouble in traveling from one place to another but also in completing the request process which is quite hassled.
Instead of this, states should automatically send mail-in ballots to their registered voters to save the time and energy of the voters. If not, at least the process of requesting a mail-in ballot should be easy and convenient. Allowing voters to request the ballots from their phones is also a considerable alternative.
Train election staff on accessibility
People with disabilities face a number of problems at the voting center because the staff working there have very little practice in assisting them. Election staff should undergo adequate training for assisting disabled people. They should not only learn how to help disabled voters navigate through the election websites but also how to treat them properly without infringing their right to a private, independent vote.
Spread information about accessible voting options
A large number of people with disabilities refuse to cast their vote because they are not aware of the accessible voting options out there. To encourage them to leverage their right, states should spread information about accessible voting options.
Election officials should inform all voters, including voters with disabilities, about how they can cast their votes with the new voting systems. Local disability advocacy organizations will serve as the key during this process as they are already connected to the people with a pre-built trust.
Hope this blog helps you with ample information!