Vote by Mail Must be Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

August 18, 2020
Vote by Mail Must be Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

Voting by mail and no excuse absentee ballot programs expand options for all voters, allowing them to take their time when completing their ballots and easing pressure on transit systems and workplace schedules as voters make their plans to participate in upcoming elections.

Vote by mail systems also allows many voters with disabilities to more easily access their ballot, as the vast majority of polling locations across the United States remain inaccessible. However, the majority of today’s vote by mail systems, are not fully accessible to all voters. People who are blind or low vision, have print disabilities, limited literacy, limited manual dexterity, and other disabilities cannot privately and independently mark, verify, and cast a hand-marked paper ballot.

To ensure voters with disabilities can mark, verify, and cast their ballots by mail privately and independently, election administrators must increase the accessibility of current vote by mail systems:

  • Allow all voters to vote by mail without requiring an excuse.
  • Allow the electronic delivery, marking, and return of absentee and vote by mail ballots.
  • Allow ballot requests to be made online.
  • Provide absentee ballots with self-sealing, prepaid envelopes for ballot return.
  • Waive requirements for witnessed signatures, notarized signatures, and doctor notes, in jurisdictions where such requirements exist.
  • Waive signature match requirements for voters with disabilities.
  • Include information about accessibility accommodations and remote accessible vote by mail systems in all communications with voters about voting absentee and voting by mail, including elections websites and mailed ballot packages.

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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 P&A/CAP Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.