Thursday, November 4, 2021

“People with disabilities continue to face barriers to voting"

Picked up on a Twitter thread about voting issues disabled folks on Tuesday. Yes, since it was election day, and voting was in progress, the thread was timely.

  • Hi, I’m a disabled voter in Massachusetts - my disability is multifaceted, but one physical presentation is loss of fine motor skill, or the ability to write. I get by in the world thanks to technology. Here are obstacles I and other disabled voters face in Massachusetts
  • I’m a busy parent, and I didn’t fill out the application for an absentee ballot by October 13th this year Obstacle 1 - disabled people must be vigilant about dates that are sometimes hard to find in fine print on websites
  • Obstacle 2 - disabled people must fill out a form (which can be done electronically, with one exception - more on that in a sec), And get it back to the their local election office on time JUST to receive a ballot.
  • Obstacle 3 - that signature. Even though most cities and towns allow for electronic submission and typed answers into the form, MA requires that everyone must provide a  “wet” signature (lol ew ). For me, this is the real obstacle.
  • Alt text for above image: Picture of a text heavy form with the following highlighted: sign your application with a “wet” signature. Application signed with a mouse, stylus, or finger are also acceptable; typed signatures are not.
  • My signature today is legible, however it is wildly different than it looked 18 months ago. The loss of my writing is something I’ve had to grieve, and the state of MA tells me: “Typed Signatures are not acceptable,” right there on the website! Not. Acceptable.
  • Obstacle 4 - We, the disabled voters of MA, must then fill out our paper ballots, sign them, get them into envelopes (no easy task), and send back in time for them to be counted. We are expressly prohibited from returning a ballot to our polling place on Election Day.
  • Text for this image: another text heavy document with the following highlighted: Once you receive your ballot, please return as soon as possible to ensure that it arrives in time to be counted. Ballots CANNOT be returned to the polling location on Election Day.
  • OK so there are the big four obstacles outlined by the state - for me, it’s something I can overcome; I will go to the polls, and I’ll cast a ballot.  I am extremely lucky, and one more MS relapse could take these options away from me.
  • But I did some more research, and it looks like The city of Boston has amazing accessibility tools! 
  • Everything can be completed online, even down to the vote itself, including that pesky signature! In Boston the language is changed to, voters may sign electronically. I was so thrilled to see this happening in Boston!
  • But something was confusing on the website. Why are these accessibility tools only Valid through 2025? And then it hit me. The city of Boston provides excellent accessibility for voting because it was sued by several disability rights groups for violating article 2 of the ADA.
  • None of these wonderful tools were given to disabled voters; disabled voters fought, and won, the right to vote without the significant obstacles I outlined above.
  • So, we have a lot of work to do Massachusetts. When you head to the polls today, try to notice how many obstacles you encounter along the way. And when you get home, check out the amazing work of @BostonCIL and @ACBofMA and @DLCMA, Who fought and won.   
  • Sorry adding the place where you can find all the legal info about voting in Boston. Photo is of text heavy legal document that is also available on the link attached. thank you for reading! 

Coincidentally, I found in my inbox on Tuesday that NIST is looking for input and comment to address this disability issue nationally: "NIST Draft Publication Addresses Removing Barriers for Voters With Disabilities"

Direct link to draft out for comment -> 

The chapter headings for the draft are shown as follows:







I heartily encourage reading and submitting comments as appropriate. Together the process needs to work for all of us.

Full twitter thread can be found here (I copied the text and links but not the emoticons...)

“People with disabilities continue to face barriers to voting"
“People with disabilities continue to face barriers to voting"

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