New settlement expands voting access to Hoosiers with print disabilities
Indiana will now offer a remote, accessible ballot marking tool for those with print disabilities following a new settlement. This could increase ballot accessibility for voters with these types of disabilities.
Prior to this settlement, voters with print disabilities could only vote by mail if they were assisted by someone from the state’s appointed travel board.
Jelena Kolic is an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates. She said voters with print disabilities now have other options beyond this travel board option.
“That requirement is now permissive, rather than mandatory,” she said. “Now, they also could request the assistance of a person of their choice for the purpose of the mail.”
Voters may also vote independently with this electronic software. Kolic said this expanded access to resources gives Hoosiers who have print disabilities rights equal to those who do not.
“Voting is the bedrock of democracy – it's the bedrock of citizenship,” Kolic said. “People with print disabilities are entitled to this right just as much as everyone else and should be on equal footing with everyone else and thanks to the settlement, they will be.”
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Kolic said there are also concerns for those with print disabilities voting in person. She said several of her clients are severely immunocompromised, leaving them at danger when they enter polling places. And Kolic said those who are blind may experience extra challenges and dangers when entering polling places due to the pandemic.
“It really can be that much more dangerous, when folks who are blind enter the polling place,” she said. “They really don't know whether people around them have masks, they don't know if people are observing the [social] distancing, they frequently rely on touching surfaces in order to orient themselves.”
Kolic said she hopes these accommodations will expand rights for all voters.
Eligible voters who would like to use the remote ballot marking tool option can apply for an absentee ballot. When doing so, they must submit a self-certification board under the penalty of perjury. Kolic said those who do not accurately complete this may face consequences.
To vote by absentee-by-mail under Indiana’s 11 excuses in the 2023 primary election, applications are due by April 20 and ballots are due to county clerks by noon local time on May 1.
Early voting in-person for the primary begins April 4. Election Day is May 2. To register to vote or apply for an absentee-by-mail ballot, go to IndianaVoters.com.
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