New York’s future mail-in voting program will benefit voters with disabilities

The New York State Board of Elections will create a new mail-in ballot program, following a lawsuit filed by disability advocacy organizations in May 2020.

The lawsuit was brought by the New York State National Federation of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc., the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, Disability Rights New York and several New York voters with disabilities. , including Rasheta Bunting, Karen Gourgey, Keith Gurgui and Jose Hernandez.

“This decision affirms that the right to vote is something that all people, regardless of their disability status, should be able to fully exercise as a civil duty. It will provide absentee voters with access via an electronic platform for people with a range of disabilities, including but not limited to visual, learning and physical disabilities,” said Sharon McLennon-Wier, executive director of CIDNY.

The program will make it easier for New Yorkers with disabilities to vote privately and independently, in accordance with the settlement agreement. In the settlement, NYSBOE must choose a remotely accessible email voting system. This would allow people who are blind and print-impaired to use their own computer to read and mark a ballot.

Computers would have their own screen-reading software that would convert ballot content into speech or Braille displayed on a connected device. The NYSBOE also needs to create a statewide portal that voters can use to request an accessible mail-in ballot. They are also committed to training each of the fifty-eight county election commissions in the use of the system.

Karen Blachowicz, President of the American Council of the Blind, New York, said, “We are pleased that the state is providing accessible and consistent mail-in voting methods and oversight of each county council, so that every voter New York’s blind can be sure of an accessible mail-in ballot.

Additionally, the Brooklyn Center for the Independence of the Disabled and NFBNYS have also agreed with DRNY that all voters deserve to vote privately and independently.

The organizations, in a joint statement, applaud NYSBOE for its commitment to making voting more accessible.

“This is a big step forward for democracy in New York State that would allow people to use their own technology to fill out an absentee ballot,” said Chana Bleznick, an advocate for the BCID’s electoral commitment.

“BCID looks forward to partnering with DRA, DRNY and other disability organizations to further ensure accessibility for all when voting,” Bleznick added.

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Ryan H. Bowman