A man opens a ballot he received in the mail.
(The Center Square) – Advocacy groups for the blind and five blind residents are suing the Virginia Department of Elections, arguing the absentee ballot system does not accommodate the disability.
According to the lawsuit, the Absentee Voting Program does not provide a way for someone who is blind or has trouble reading print to vote privately and independently, which impedes on their right to vote and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit states a voter must fill out a paper ballot using a pen or a marker and return the ballot by mail. To cast a vote, the person must read the ballot in standard print and write or fill in the ballot choices, which a person without the ability to read standard print cannot do without assistance, which means the person cannot do it privately.
The plaintiffs claim anyone with that disability will have to go to their local electoral board or polling place to vote privately and independently, which puts their health at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Individuals with print disabilities must choose between their health and their right to vote,” the lawsuit says.
According to the lawsuit, alternatives to paper absentee ballots are used by other states for people with disabilities. Virginia also uses the myBallot KNOWiNK system, which is a secured email ballot delivery system that accommodates blind people, but it is only available for overseas voters from certain counties. The lawsuit said Virginia could make this accessible for everyone in the state by the November election.
Andrea Gaines, a spokesperson for the Department of Elections, told The Center Square that the department does not comment on pending litigation.