As the Senate Weighs Voting Reform, Disability Advocates Express Concern over Paper Ballots

April 30, 2021
As the Senate Weighs Voting Reform, Disability Advocates Express Concern over Paper Ballots

For Immediate Release

Contact: David Card
202.408.9514 x122
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC – In January 2021, twenty national disability organizations issued a joint statement expressing concerns over a paper ballot mandate included in the For the People Act of 2021. The legislation was passed by the House of Representatives without addressing the paper ballot issue and is now being considered in the United States Senate.

“The vast majority of the provisions included in this bill will positively impact all voters in America, including voters with disabilities,” said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker. “However, it must be understood that the paper ballot mandate also included in the bill is of great concern to many voters with disabilities as the ability to mark, verify, and cast a paper ballot privately and independently is currently not an option for all voters.”

Both versions of the bill expand voter access by addressing the many barriers to voting in America, such as onerous registration and vote by mail systems, and limited voting hours across the country. Additionally, the bill prohibits deceptive practices and prevents voter intimidation, prohibits voter caging, and restores federal voting rights to disenfranchised Americans.

The legislation also includes specific provisions enhancing access for voters with disabilities. The For the People Act ensures voters with disabilities the right to use absentee voting procedures; ensures drop boxes are fully accessible; and invests in the research and development of accessible voting machines.

The National Disability Rights Network is urging Congress to protect the rights of voters with disabilities by:

  • offering solutions to those voters who cannot mark, verify, and cast paper ballots privately and independently,
  • Reexamining any paper ballot mandate as new, more accessible and secure technology becomes available, and
  • providing a continual funding stream to state and local election officials for the purpose of making electoral processes fully accessible.

“Rather than overly prescriptive, blanket mandates that create barriers for eligible voters, the focus must be on fostering innovative solutions that make our elections more accessible and more secure through responsible use of technology,” continued Decker. “As Congress continues to strengthen our democracy, the National Disability Rights Network looks forward to continuing its work with both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to ensure the rights of voters with disabilities are not being overlooked or forgotten.”

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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.