Action Alert: May 11, 2023


May 11, 2023 | by Amber Smock

Let’s Get It Done: Illinois Accessible Vote By Mail

Tell Illinois legislators that our elections need to include Accessible Vote By Mail (AVBM)

Access Living friends and allies,

While vote by mail is available across the state, it is not necessarily accessible for many voters. Blind and visually impaired voters cannot use print ballots without assistance. Other voters, who have what is called “print disabilities,” include many voters who have difficulty holding pens and manipulating paper. AVBM means that you should be able to have a ballot emailed to you, you can fill it out only, and then you can email it back.

Last year, disability voting advocates won the statewide right to have vote by mail ballots emailed to them on request, but you still have to print the ballot out, sign it, put it in an envelope, and return it. This process is inaccessible for many people. Leaders, led by the National Federation of the Blind Illinois, are asking for the community’s support for the Illinois bill SB 282, which would create full AVBM. 

How can you help TODAY?

You can send a quick email to your Illinois State Senator at this link. We need people to contact their Illinois State Senators NOW.

Further details and background information on AVBM:

The Problem 

In 2022, the Illinois General Assembly passed, and Governor Pritzker signed into law, SB 829/P.A. 102-819, which established a remote accessible vote by mail system that allows voters with print disabilities to electronically receive, mark and verify ballots with their personal assistive technology.

HOWEVER, this law does not allow these voters to RETURN their mail-in ballots with that assistive technology, meaning that these voters have to print out, address, and mail their ballots which is obviously inaccessible to a great many of these voters.

This requirement forces voters with print disabilities to seek assistance from a third party to complete the vote by mail process. This deprives people of the right to vote privately and independently.

For vote by mail to be accessible to voters with print disabilities, they must be able to privately and independently mark and return their vote by mail ballots as required by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and affirmed by federal courts in Maryland, Michigan, Maine, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York.   

The Solution 

SB 282 will allow voters with print disabilities to return their vote by mail ballots electronically and ensure that voters with print disabilities can vote by mail privately and independently at home, work, or other convenient location, using a computer and their own assistive technology.  It will also ensure that electronic documents and web pages that must be used as part of the remote vote by mail system are accessible to voters with print disabilities. 13 states already allow voters with disabilities to return their vote by mail ballots electronically: CO, DE, HI, IN, LA, ME, MA, NV, NC, ND, RI, UT, and WV.  SB 282 will afford voters with print disabilities an opportunity to vote by mail that is equal to that afforded to voters without disabilities, namely, without assistance, and bridge the accessibility gap that currently exists in vote by mail in Illinois.  Read the full text of SB 282.

The undersigned organizations stand in strong support of SB 282:

National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, Illinois Council of the Blind, Equip for Equality, Access Living, Reform for Illinois, The Chicago Lighthouse, Thresholds, Chicago Hearing Society, Disability Lead, Institute on Disability and Human Development-University of Illinois Chicago, Progress Center for Independent Living, Illinois Assistive Technology Program, Don Moss & Associates, Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, Brain Injury Association of Illinois, The Arc of Illinois, Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living .

Please share this information with fellow voting advocates!