June 16, 2021 – Providence, RI – The American Council of the Blind strongly encourages passage of H-6004 by the Rhode Island State Assembly. For the first time in the State’s history, H-6004 will enable equal access for voters with disabilities to vote independently and privately from home. All other eligible absentee voters have the ability to vote at home. Yet voters who cannot see, hold, or mark a paper ballot, are currently forced to give up their right to vote independently and privately, or vote at a polling location. This is by definition, unequal access to the ballot for voters with disabilities. We are grateful for the support of the assembly to rectify this ballot access issue by voting for H-6004.
The American Council of the Blind[i], President, Dan Spoon urges that “allowing Rhode Island voters with disabilities to electronically request, receive, complete and return their absentee ballot will provide accessible ballot access while reducing the dual barriers posed by handling, reading, and marking an inaccessible paper ballot and transportation access to the physical poling location or drop box.”
Passage of H6004 is vital to the nearly 16% of voters in Rhode Island that have a disability.
- A 2021 Rutgers University research paper states that Rhode Island has 135,000 voters with disabilities, and nearly 20% of those voters had difficulty voting in the 2020 elections, including 30% of visually impaired voters who found it difficult to vote independently.
- Many voters with disabilities cannot see, read, hold, or mark a conventional paper absentee ballot privately and independently. H6004 allows voters with disabilities the same right to access, mark and return an electronic ballot as voters living abroad, or serving in the military.
- H6004 remedies the fact that even though voters with disabilities are eligible to vote by using an absentee ballot, many of these voters are denied equal access to an absentee voting system due to the only absentee voting option being the use of a paper absentee ballot.
- Over 205 jurisdictions across seven states deployed an accessible ballot delivery and return system in 2020. [ii]
We urge the passage of H6004 and applaud the leadership in Rhode Island for joining the chorus of other states in helping pave the way for accessible voting for all voters, regardless of ability.
American Council of the Blind (ACB) Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs
[i] The American Council of the Blind is a national grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired. With 68 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve the quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people.
[ii] including five states that allowed voters with disabilities to receive, mark, and return their ballot electronically: Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and West Virginia.