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Virginia agrees to absentee ballot option for blind voters

April 21, 2021 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia election officials have agreed to permanently provide an absentee ballot option for blind voters.

The agreement comes after several voters with disabilities, the American Council of the Blind of Virginia, and the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia filed a lawsuit in federal court last year against the state for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Virginia Disabilities Act.

In August, the state agreed to provide an absentee ballot option that is accessible and can be marked electronically so voters with disabilities could safely vote in the November 2020 general election.

The plaintiffs and their lawyers said this week that the state has agreed to permanently provide the remote electronic absentee ballot option for voters with disabilities, beginning with the upcoming primary election in June.

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Under a consent decree, the state will also appoint an ombudsman to assist voters to use the accessible electronic ballot.

A new state voting rights law, which takes effect July 1, will make the accessible absentee ballot option permanent.

Sam Joehl, president of the American Council of the Blind of Virginia, said the COVID-19 pandemic “illustrated the criticality for voters with print disabilities to be able to independently cast a remote ballot, which is an option that every other voter can exercise.”