voters with disabilities

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Canada: Nova Scotia could see limited internet voting for military with proposed changes | Keith Doucette/The Canadian Press

Limited internet voting for the military and financial reimbursement for candidate expenses related to family care feature in a series of proposed changes to Nova Scotia’s Elections Act tabled Friday. Justice Minister Mark Furey said the changes would reduce barriers to running in elections and make voting easier for members of the military who are serving elsewhere in Canada or overseas. Under the changes, candidates would be reimbursed for extra expenses such as child and spousal care, elder care or care for a person with a disability. “Public service is foundational to our democracy, and my hope is that these changes will reduce barriers to running, especially for women who are primary care givers in so many elements of their family,” Furey said.

Full Article: (1) Nova Scotia could see limited internet voting for military with proposed changes - Halifax | Globalnews.ca.

National: Disability rights groups say focus on election security hurting voter accessibility | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Disability rights advocates on Thursday urged election officials to focus on accessibility alongside security for U.S. elections and pushed for more technological solutions that would allow all Americans to cast secure votes. “For people with disabilities, our votes aren’t secure now,” Kelly Buckland, the executive director of the National Council for Independent Living, said at an election accessibility summit hosted by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on Thursday. “I believe we could make them more secure through technology that is available today.” After Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections — which according to U.S. intelligence agencies and former special counsel Robert Mueller involved sweeping disinformation efforts on social media and targeting of vulnerabilities in voter registration systems — election security has become a major topic of debate on the national stage. Concerns around the use of technology in elections were also heightened this month following the use of a new vote tabulation app by the Iowa Democratic Party during the Iowa caucuses. The app malfunctioned due to a “coding issue,” leading to chaos around the final vote tally.  After these incidents, election security experts have advocated for using more paper ballots to ensure no individual or group can hack the votes, and to ensure no glitch can occur.  However, disability groups on Thursday noted that moving to just paper could make it difficult to vote for blind or visually impaired people, those who have difficulty leaving their homes, or those for whom English is not their first language.

Full Article: Disability rights groups say focus on election security hurting voter accessibility | TheHill.

West Virginia: Security dangers of online voting don’t deter West Virginia | The Fulcrum

West Virginia is looking to become the first state to allow disabled people to vote using their smartphones. Republican Gov. Jim Justice is expected to sign legislation, which breezed through the GOP-controlled Legislature last month, requiring all counties to provide an online balloting option to anyone who cannot use a regular voting machine because of physical disability. The new law puts West Virginia more firmly on one side of the ease-versus-security divide in the debate over modernizing voting systems. In the wake of hacking attempts by Russian operatives during the 2016 election, almost all the experts on ways to prevent such interference are opposed to online voting of any sort. At the same time, advocates are pushing hard for methods making voting plausible for the one in eight Americans with a disability. In 2018 West Virginia became the first state to create a mobile application for voting, but it was only available to members of the military stationed abroad. It was used by 147 West Virginians with homes in 24 countries to cast their midterm ballots for Congress and state offices.

Full Article: Amid security warnings, West Virginia adds online voting - The Fulcrum.

West Virginia: Bill To Allow Internet Voting For West Virginians With Disabilities Passes Legislature | West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia House of Delegates has passed a bill that would allow voters with certain disabilities to vote electronically in the upcoming election.  Senate Bill 94 will provide West Virginians with disabilities the same electronic voting ability the West Virginia Secretary of State allowed for overseas military members in 2018. It’s the first bill both chambers of the Legislature have voted on this year. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for final approval. Donald Kersey, general counsel to the Secretary of State’s office, said Thursday qualifying voters will know within a month what kind of electronic voting methods will be available to them, assuming Gov. Jim Justice signs the bill. He said because Tusk-Montgomery Philanthropies, a mobile voting advocacy group, has offered to pay for the associated equipment, implementing the bill won’t cost anything to the state or the counties responsible for offering and collecting the ballots. The same group covered mobile voting costs in the last election.

Full Article: Bill To Allow Electronic Voting For West Virginians With Disabilities Passes Legislature | West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Wisconsin: ‘Model’ disability rights voting program has declined | Rory Linnane/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Despite the clamor to turn out Wisconsin voters in 2020, some voters might be stopped at the doors of their polling places. Auditors have flagged hundreds of violations at Wisconsin polls that make it harder or impossible for voters with disabilities to vote in person. A Journal Sentinel review of audits found officials are missing required action plans to fix most of these issues from the last two years. Though Wisconsin once had a robust program for monitoring accessibility problems at polls — one that was lauded as a best practice by a presidential commission in 2014 — state officials have let it wane. Since the recognition, officials have missed audits, been slow to follow up on accessibility violations and provided fewer supplies to help polling places become more accessible. “This dramatic decrease in the audit program is troubling as these audits provide critical information on the accessibility of polling places around the state,” said Denise Jess, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Jess serves on an advisory committee for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which runs the accessibility program. She and other disability rights advocates on the committee want to see the commission do more to address problems that shut out voters with disabilities.

Full Article: Wisconsin's ‘model’ disability rights voting program has declined.

West Virginia: Judiciary Committee Will Recommend Electronic Absentee Voting Bill For People With Disabilities | Emily Allen/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Members of the Joint Judiciary Committees voted Monday to recommend a bill to their respective chambers, allowing voters with certain physical disabilities to cast absentee ballots electronically. Currently, West Virginia allows voters with qualifying impairments to cast paper mail-in votes, as long as they’re on a special absentee voting list maintained by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office. But, according to Jeremiah Underhill, legal director for the group Disability Rights of West Virginia, navigating a piece of paper can be an impediment for someone who has a serious hand or visual impairment. “Voting is a fundamental right that is preserved in the U.S. Constitution,” Underhill told the committee. “Everyone is afforded a legal opportunity to vote.”

Full Article: Judiciary Committee Will Recommend Electronic Absentee Voting Bill For People With Disabilities | West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Wisconsin: Voters with disabilities face barriers at the polls | Rory Linnane/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A sign on a door reading “handicapped entrance, knock hard.” A set of stairs leading to voting booths with no elevator. A poll worker demanding voters state their names and addresses aloud, no matter their ability to speak. These are just a few of the barriers voters with disabilities have faced at Wisconsin polling places in recent elections. Advocates say the issues are preventing people with disabilities from voting with the same ease and privacy as others — or preventing their votes entirely. The last state report on accessibility barriers, in 2015, found most audited polling places had problems. State law requires such a report every two years, but state officials failed to complete one in 2017 and they’re late on the 2019 report.  The 2015 report found about 4,000 accessibility problems at 808 polling places. It said about 1,650 problems were severe enough to likely prevent some voters from entering and casting a private and independent ballot.  Federal law requires voting facilities to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Full Article: Wisconsin voters with disabilities face barriers at the polls.

North Carolina: Election security debate affects voters with disabilities | Jordan Wilkie/Raleigh News & Observer

When Damon Circosta, chairman of the state board of elections, voted in August to certify an elections equipment system opposed by local election security advocates, he said conversations with disability rights groups helped him make that decision. Circosta, whose vote broke a 2-2 tie, was in his first meeting as board chair. Carolina Public Press first asked Circosta on Aug. 23, the date of the meeting, about which disability rights groups he had talked with in making up his mind. A response, emailed by Board of Elections public information officer Pat Gannon, did not answer CPP’s question. Neither did records requests for communications between Circosta and any disability rights group or advocate. The records showed that one person, Lawrence Carter, president of the Raleigh/Wake Council of the Blind, submitted a written statement and made public comment, but his views were in opposition to the voting system Circosta voted to certify.

Full Article: Election security debate affects voters with disabilities | Raleigh News & Observer.

Maryland: National Federation of the Blind sues State Board of Elections over ballot privacy | Danielle E. Gaines/WTOP

A group of Maryland voters is suing the state of Maryland, alleging that state policies require them to cast a segregated ballot. The National Federation of the Blind, its Maryland affiliate and three blind registered Maryland voters — Marie Cobb, Ruth Sager and Joel Zimba — filed a lawsuit against the Maryland State Board of Elections in U.S. District Court on Thursday. The lawsuit alleges the elections board is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws by maintaining a segregated system of voting that denies blind voters their right to a secret ballot and an equal voting experience. At issue are the state’s policies for using ExpressVote ballot-marking devices – which can allow voters who are blind or have motor disabilities to use headphones, magnification, touchscreens and other features to independently cast ballots. The machines do not record votes directly but mark a paper ballot that is printed and scanned. ExpressVote paper ballots are a different size and shape than paper ballots filled out by hand, making those votes cast by Marylanders with disabilities immediately identifiable, advocates say.

Full Article: National Federation of the Blind sues Md. State Board of Elections over ballot privacy | WTOP.

National: Disabled voters left behind in push to amp up 2020 security, advocates say | Jordan Wilkie/The Guardian

Russian attacks on American democracy in 2016, carried out over the internet, have triggered a national debate over the use of technology in the United States’ upcoming 2020 elections. But some of the best ways to beef up the security of the voting process and fight off future cyber-attacks could have an unintended consequence: limiting access to the vote for people with disabilities. Voting on hand-marked paper ballots – which by definition can’t be hacked – combined with robust audits of how the elections were carried out and how the votes were counted is widely seen as the most secure way to run an election. Cybersecurity experts want hand-marked paper ballot systems, but disability rights advocates want voting machines to be used for all voters, as they are best for disabled access. The two groups have been butting heads over this since the Help America Vote Act (Hava) of 2002, which gave states $3.9bn to buy new voting technology and required every polling place have at least one accessible voting machine. Rather than operate parallel systems – and since it was on the federal dime – many county and state governments decided to purchase voting machines to be used by all voters – something now seen as a security weakness.

Full Article: Disabled voters left behind in push to amp up 2020 security, advocates say | US news | The Guardian.

Editorials: New Pennsylvania voting security measures could disenfranchise voters with disabilities | Imani Barbarin and Gabe Labella/Philadelphia Inquirer

paImagine getting up early on election day having done your homework on the issues, educated yourself on candidates’ positions, and chosen whom to vote for, only to find poll workers who do not know how to turn on, set up, or assist you in using the voting machine. That is exactly the type of story we at Disability Rights Pennsylvania heard, along with a host of others, during the last presidential election in 2016 when we ran a hotline for disabled voters. During the 2016 election, less than 20 percent of polling places were accessible to people with disabilities. Some voting systems rarely had instructions included, others lacked tactile buttons for people with low vision, and for some systems, the voters could not verify that the ballot reflected their choices. For these reasons, voter turnout for people with disabilities remains under 50 percent. According to the American Association of People With Disabilities, 16 million of the eligible 35 million voters with disabilities cast a ballot in the 2016 election. With election security on the minds of legislators, there is fear that changes to polling technology will only further disenfranchise citizens with disabilities in the coming election. Pennsylvania Bills S.B. 411-419 have been introduced in the House and Senate to update and reform the election system. This comes as counties and the disabled across the state test new voting systems that create a paper trail through different formats.

Full Article: New voting security measures could disenfranchise voters with disabilities | Opinion.

National: Thousands With Disabilities Have Lost the Right to Vote | WhoWhatWhy

Though an estimated 113 million US citizens got to vote in the midterms, thousands more were left out — unable to vote or even register because of laws that consider them mentally incapable of doing so. These state laws affect the thousands of adults in the US under guardianship — people who, because of a disability, have been determined legally to be incapable of performing necessary daily tasks for themselves, and therefore are in need of a guardian to help them. The status of their right to vote — much as for convicted felons — is determined by the state they live in. However, unlike the widely publicized disenfranchisement of felons, many people are unaware of the problems facing those under guardianship. “This is an issue that, for the large part, I think, flies under the radar if you are not working on it,” Michelle Bishop, voting rights specialist for the National Disability Rights network, told WhoWhatWhy. “It’s not being talked about. The average American doesn’t know this type of thing happens, that you can have your right to vote denied based on having a disability.”

Full Article: Thousands With Disabilities Have Lost the Right to Vote - WhoWhatWhy.

National: Majority of disabled voters in U.S. faced challenges in casting ballots in ’16 | WHYY

When it comes to expanding voter access, most often the conversation centers around allowing early voting or establishing automatic voting registration. But a forum at the University of Delaware Tuesday focused instead on making voting more accessible for those with disabilities. “We still have this cultural lag where we don’t really expect people with disabilities to be voters,” said Rabia Belt, historian and assistant professor at Stanford Law School. “It’s still quite difficult for people to be able to access polling places, people to receive the accommodations that are legally mandated.” The forum organized by UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies looked at how people with disabilities are underrepresented at the polls.

Full Article: Majority of disabled voters in U.S. faced challenges in casting ballots in '16 : Politics & Policy : WHYY.

Kansas: ‘There’s no road map for him’: Deaf candidate for Kansas House aiming to make history | The Kansas City Star

As the Olathe candidate knocked on a voter’s door, a dog inside barked and the sound of footsteps approached. The candidate didn’t look up. He’s deaf. The door opened. The homeowner started to say hello but trailed off as the candidate gestured to his ear and smiled. He pointed to his shirt — “Haulmark for Kansas” — and held up a pamphlet advertising his campaign. The homeowner nodded, tilting his head slightly, and looked on. There have been deaf city counselors and a deaf mayor, but Chris Haulmark, if elected, would be the first deaf legislator — at the state or national level — in U.S. history, according to the National Association of the Deaf. “It will be the very first time in America’s history that finally a deaf person has been invited to the table to sit with the other politicians, legislators and lawmakers and be able to make decisions together,” Haulmark, 39, said recently at an event commemorating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Full Article: Chris Haulmark campaigns to be first deaf lawmaker in U.S. | The Kansas City Star.

Georgia: Randolph County Can’t Back Up Its Excuse For Plan To Disenfranchise Black Voters | HuffPost

Officials in a majority-black Georgia county accused of trying to close almost all polling places to make it harder for black people to vote claimed last week that the locations couldn’t be used because of accessibility problems for people with disabilities. But Randolph County doesn’t have a single recent report, analysis or document supporting the idea that it needs to close seven of its nine polling places due to accessibility issues, a lawyer for the county told HuffPost on Tuesday in response to a public records request. HuffPost requested records from the county dating back to March 1, 2018. The county hired Michael Malone, an outside elections consultant now pushing for the closures, on April 2. But according to the county, it has no written record of evidence to back his recommendations. “There is no document, report or analysis studying the handicap accessibility of polling places in Randolph County and the cost of fixing them within the time frame specified in your open records request,” Hayden Hooks, an attorney with the firm Perry & Walters, which represents Randolph County, wrote in an email. The county has no record of such a document in the past year, Hooks added.

Full Article: Georgia County Can't Back Up Its Excuse For Plan To Disenfranchise Black Voters | HuffPost.

Michigan: Blind voters may struggle with new voting machines | Associated Press

New voting machines in Michigan may cause problems for residents with a visual disability. Tuesday’s primary election will feature $40 million of new equipment that replaced aging voting machines, The Detroit Free Press reported. For more than a decade, blind voters in the state have used AutoMark Voter Assist Terminals, which have a touch screen and a keypad with Braille. A 2015 survey estimates that about 221,000 Michigan residents have a visual disability. Most Michigan counties will now use Dominion Voting Systems, which don’t have keypads with Braille and feature verbal instructions that can be difficult for a blind person to follow. Some counties selected new equipment from Election Systems & Software or Hart InterCivic. About 100 blind people helped test out the three systems in 2016, said Fred Wurtzel, who is blind and is second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind in Michigan. He said most testers preferred the Election Systems equipment, while many said the Hart InterCivic were the most difficult to use.

Full Article: Blind Michigan voters may struggle with new voting machines - Fairfield Citizen.

Maldives: Election body makes second voting U-turn | Maldives Independent

The Maldives elections body will allow voters with disabilities to choose their own helpers for polling day, its second U-turn and major misstep in four days. Updated electoral regulations published Sunday say voters who require assistance will be allowed to choose a helper of their choice. The helper can assist the voter with the permission of the chief electoral official at the ballot centre. The Elections Commission initially said only electoral officials would help voters who were unable to tick the ballot paper on their own. The original announcement was met with anger from political parties and a threat of legal action by a former attorney general.

Full Article: Maldives election body makes second voting U-turn – Maldives Independent.

Zimbabwe: Visually Impaired Man Takes Electoral Commission To Court Over Voting Rights | ZimEye

A visually impaired man has taken the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to the High Court seeking an order to compel the elections body to print and avail ballot papers in Braille or the template ballot as a way of ensuring that visually impaired enjoy their right to a secret vote. Abraham Mateta, who is visually impared and is a registered voter wants ZEC to put in place administrative measures to enable people in his condition to vote by secret ballot in the coming 2018 harmonised election. Mateta also proposed that ZEC must provide tactile voting devices to all the visually impaired people who want to vote secretly arguing that those who wish to be assisted in voting,  should select their own assistants and cast the vote without the involvement of a presiding officer or any other third party.

Full Article: Visually Impared Man Takes ZEC To Court Over Voting Rights | ZimEye.

Ireland: Tactile ballot templates to facilitate visually impaired in voting | The Irish Times

People who are blind or visually impaired will be able to vote in the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment without assistance for the first time. The use of new tactile ballot templates at polling stations means thousands of people with limited or no sight will be able to cast their votes in secret in the May referendum. The introduction of these new ballot papers follows the High Court case of Robbie Sinnott who initiated proceedings in 2016 against the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the State.

Full Article: Tactile ballot templates to facilitate visually impaired in voting.

Kansas: Mail Ballot Bill Clarifying Disabled Voters’ Rights Moves Through Kansas Legislature | KMUW

Sedgwick County leaders are optimistic a law will be passed this year that makes sure voters with disabilities can vote by mail.  County commissioners have backed two bills in the Kansas Legislature clarifying that voters who can’t sign their mail-in ballot envelopes will still have their votes counted. State law already allows voters to receive assistance filling out their mail-in ballots if needed. One of those bills — sponsored by Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita — passed unanimously through the Senate last week. Sedgwick County Commission Chairman David Dennis says he thinks there’s a good chance it’ll pass through the House just as easily.

Full Article: Mail Ballot Bill Clarifying Disabled Voters' Rights Moves Through Kansas Legislature | KMUW.