Accessible Voting Position Statement

March 4, 2021

NCIL endorses accessible, digital voting as an additional method to Accessible Remote Voting.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed new fault lines in America’s election process. The two traditional methods of voting – in-person and vote-by-mail – have been inadequate. With in-person voting, the pandemic has raised significant safety issues for both voters and poll workers. Across the country, jurisdictions have responded in two ways. First, polling locations are consolidated, limiting the rights of voters with disabilities to use accessible voting systems. Second, to offset the loss of polling locations, there has been a dramatic expansion of vote-by-mail using hand-marked paper ballots, which is not accessible to voters with a number of print disabilities.

Taken together, some voters with disabilities have seen their options to vote severely constrained in the 2020 election. Disability organizations have filed several successful lawsuits in many jurisdictions to require that an accessible remote voting option be available as an alternative to paper-only vote-by-mail. Unfortunately, many favorable consent decrees or decisions lapse after the 2020 General Election. 

In summary:

America’s traditional voting methods – in-person and remote vote-by-mail – are vulnerable to new and old threats that disproportionally affect voters with disabilities. These include safety issues with in-person voting, an unreliable U.S. Postal Service, natural disasters (hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and ice storms), voter suppression efforts, and foreign and domestic disinformation campaigns.

Paper ballots are not accessible to many voters with disabilities, and no method exists to make them accessible.

Voters must be allowed to choose freely among expanded options to engage in America’s electoral process. 

Accordingly, it is NCIL’s position that:

Digital voting must be a choice for voters with disabilities regardless of their circumstances, who chose to vote remotely. The term “digital voting” means the electronic delivery of a blank ballot to an eligible voter, the electronic marking and verification of the voter’s selections, and the voted ballot’s electronic return. 

There must be no requirement for a voter to handle a paper ballot.

States cannot use digital voting to restrict other methods of voting. Instead, digital voting should be an additional option to accessible voting.