For Immediate Release
Alexandria, VA — On Monday, February 3, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed into law Senate Bill 94, a bill to ensure that all voters in West Virginia are guaranteed access to the ballot box, at polling locations and when voting absentee. On behalf of our nationwide membership, and in conjunction with the Mountain State Council of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind commends West Virginia for working with us to ensure equal access to absentee voting for people with disabilities.
“A critical guarantee of our democracy is the right to privately and independently mark, cast, and verify an election ballot. This right is not always afforded to people with disabilities, at the polling location or when voting absentee. The American Council of the Blind commends Governor Justice and the West Virginia State Legislature for working with ACB to pass S.B. 94 to ensure all residents of the Mountain State may fully participate in the democratic process,” said Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind. Prior to this law, blind and visually impaired West Virginians could not independently and privately vote via absentee ballot; no alternative method to traditional paper ballots existed to allow those who could not visually read the ballot to vote independently. West Virginia will now implement an alternative absentee voting method that will allow those who cannot visually read the ballot to take advantage of this alternative voting system if they wish to do so.
While advocating for this new form of access, the American Council of the Blind, Centers for Independent Living, and West Virginia voters with disabilities were represented by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, and Disability Rights of West Virginia.
“Ensuring equal access to the ballot is fundamental to our democracy. Yet, voters with disabilities have been consistently disenfranchised in absentee voting by the requirement to vote by paper ballot. We applaud West Virginia for recognizing the importance of equitable access to the voting process for all voters and the right to cast a private, independent ballot. S.B. 94 will help to remedy the historic disenfranchisement of voters with disabilities by providing an accessible, secure online option by which they can cast their ballots,” said Jonathan Smith, Executive Director, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
The American Council of the Blind is a national grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired. With 70 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. Together, we make a bright future. Learn more by visiting www.acb.org.