As more Californians skip the polls to mail in their ballots, a Bay Area county will become the first in the state to make voting-by-mail accessible to the blind. Under a Monday settlement in Federal Court, San Mateo County has set an “ambitious goal” of making its mail-in ballots fully accessible to visually impaired voters by the June 2017 elections. And the county has agreed to bring disabled-accessible voting machines directly to the homes of blind voters upon request for this year’s general election. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer approved the settlement framework Monday, nearly nine months after the California Council of the Blind and two blind voters sued the county and state in December 2015. The plaintiffs said a program launched in 2014 to expand mail-in ballots and reduce polling sites in the county forced blind voters to “sacrifice the confidentiality” of their votes by making them rely on others to fill out ballots. “As voting evolves, we want to make sure blind and disabled voters aren’t left behind,’ plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Nunez said. “This order sets forth a process that makes sure that doesn’t happen.”
… Deadlines under the new deal require the California Secretary of State to certify a new, accessible vote-by-mail system for the county by March 6, 2017. “Once the secretary certifies that tool, counties across the state will be able to make that same tool available to blind and disabled voters in their jurisdictions as well,” Nunez said. “That will increase accessibility for blind and disabled voters in a profound way.”
One barrier to a more accessible vote-by-mail system was a state law that prohibits voting systems from connecting to the Internet. However, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 2252 into law on July 22, which authorizes the use of assistive technology to let disabled voters independently fill out their mail-in ballots.
The new system will let blind voters download ballots and use text-to-speech technology to fill them out before printing and mailing them, without transmitting their votes over the Internet, Nunez said.
Full Article: CNS – Vote-by-Mail System for the Blind Coming.