Virginia will now permanently make its elections accessible and safe for voters with print disabilities.
Starting with the June 2021 primaries, those who cannot mark a paper ballot privately and independently due to disabilities such as blindness can now cast their ballot more accessibly with a secure remote absentee voting option.
In August 2020, Virginia agreed to provide an absentee ballot option that is accessible and can be marked electronically so that voters with disabilities could safely vote in the November 2020 general election.
Last year, several voters with disabilities, the American Council of the Blind of Virginia, and the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia against the Commonwealth for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Virginia Disabilities Act.
“We are pleased that the Commonwealth of Virginia recognizes that reducing barriers to absentee voting improved the November 2020 election and is committed to offering a secure remote absentee voting option moving forward,” said Maggie Hart, Counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. “The right to vote is precious and our democracy will only be strengthened by increasing access to the ballot.”
The judge ruled that Virginia has an obligation to provide a remote accessible vote by mail tool for the primary election on June 8. Virginia will also appoint an ombudsman to assist voters with disabilities to use the accessible electronic ballot.
The new voting rights law, which takes effect July 1, will make the accessible absentee ballot option permanent.