Voting in New York will become easier for blind and disabled residents following the settlement of a lawsuit against the New York State Board of Elections this week.
Under the new terms, the state government has until June 1 to create an electronic voting method that would allow voters with disabilities who make reading or writing text difficult, such as blindness or paralysis, to print and return the ballots online.
“Through this agreement, the New York State Board of Elections has made it easier for people with print disabilities to vote with greater privacy and independence,” Timothy A. Clune, executive director of Disability Rights New York, said in a statement.
The original complaint filed in May 2020 said voters with disabilities who did not wish to vote in person for fear of contracting Covid-19 were barred from absenteeism because they were unable to independently fill out paper ballots. .
Once the new system is in place, voters with disabilities will be able to request ballot papers from their local election commissions up to 15 days before each election. These ballots come with prepaid return envelopes and “vow” envelopes with raised markings indicating where visually impaired voters can sign their names, although the board accepts signatures all over the envelopes.
The new system will also allow voters with disabilities to electronically mark their ballots using computer software that describes text and images in sound. Marked ballots can then be printed and sent.
The settlement requires the board to pay $400,000 in attorney fees to those who have sued.
John Conklin, a spokesman for the Council of Elections, said the board would work to have the new system operational in time for the June state elections, but added that the timeframe was “very, very tight”.
If the board is unable to implement the electronic voting system by June 1, voters can still request digital ballots to fill out, he said.
In June 2020, as the pandemic raged, the state made absentee voting a little easier. Former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an executive order allowing all residents to apply for ballots for the state’s primary and general election.