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Voting with a Visual Impairment

September 25, 2020

A hand putting a piece of paper in a ballot box.

Voting. All Americans have the right to have their voices heard.  With election season around the corner, we want to highlight a few ways for individuals who are blind or visually impaired to cast their ballots.

Before we talk about the options available to you, it is important to highlight several laws that ensure individuals with disabilities have the proper tools to vote. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides protections to people with disabilities and includes equal opportunities to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 also allowed voters who are blind or visually impaired to receive assistance from a person of the voter’s choosing.  The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires jurisdictions responsible for conducting general elections to provide at least one accessible voting system for those with disabilities in each polling location.

There are three different ways to vote in New York State – mail-in, early voting, and voting on Election Day. The deadline to register to vote in New York is October 9th.

Absentee Voting
If you are not able to get to the polls on Election Day, you can vote using an absentee ballot.

New York State offers a special accessible absentee ballot that can be read by a screen reader. The application can be filled out using a screen reader software and can be found here: https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/voting/NYAccessibleElectronicAbsBallotApp.pdf. To fill out the application with a screen reader, you’ll need a program such as Adobe Reader. The deadline to request this ballot is October 27th.

Election Day
If you are casting your ballot on Election Day, we recommend calling your local board of election supervisors ahead of time and letting them know that you have accessibility issues. We also recommend bringing your magnifier (if you use one.) Polling locations are open from 6 am to 9 pm.

Early Voting
If you want to get your vote in early, New York State is now offering early voting. Early voting is available from October 24th to November 2nd. Early voting operates the same as voting on Election Day, with the added benefit of not waiting in line on Election Day. Locations and hours may vary between counties, so be sure to reach out to your local board of elections.

We hope these tips will help you when you cast your ballot this November! Rules and deadlines may vary in each state. However you choose to vote, be sure to know your options and deadlines, and have a plan ahead of time.