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Coalition of Disability Organizations Calls for Voting Equality in New Jersey
News provided byNational Federation of the Blind
Nov 20, 2023, 11:19 AM ET
National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey, New Jersey Council of the Blind, and Disability Rights New Jersey Call for Support on Bill Allowing Electronic Ballot Return for Blind or Print-disabled Voters
TRENTON, N.J., Nov. 20, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey (NFBNJ), the New Jersey Council of the Blind (NJCB), and Disability Rights New Jersey (DRNJ) are requesting support from state senators for a bill that would enable blind voters and individuals with print disabilities to mark and return their vote-by-mail ballots electronically. The bill aims to ensure equal access to vote-by-mail voting for all citizens by giving blind and print-disabled voters the same right that military and overseas voters already exercise.
The organizations are urging state senators to support the bill, S. 3302. The New Jersey General Assembly has already passed companion legislation by a wide margin. Electronic ballot return would enable blind voters and individuals with print disabilities to mark and return their ballots using assistive technology, such as screen readers or magnification software, ensuring privacy, independence, and accuracy.
"For too long, New Jersey's blind voters have been unable to vote privately and independently from our homes because we must still print and return our ballots. Many of us do not own printers or cannot independently verify and return a printed ballot," said Linda Melendez, president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey. "This is discriminatory, second-class treatment, and it violates federal law. We urge the New Jersey Senate to rectify this situation immediately."
"The ability to vote privately and independently provided by an accessible ballot with electronic return would dramatically increase voter participation in the blind and low-vision community," said Wanda Williford, president of the New Jersey Council of the Blind. "This legislation would essentially eliminate the common barriers of transportation and accessibility to casting a vote in New Jersey for individuals with print disabilities. Increased voter participation benefits all New Jersey citizens."
"As New Jersey's protection and advocacy system for individuals with disabilities, we want to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to all voting methods," said Mary Ciccone, Director of Policy for Disability Rights New Jersey. "The current vote-by-mail system does not provide individuals with visual disabilities and dexterity impairments the same opportunity to vote privately and independently as individuals without disabilities, yet such access can be easily achieved."
About the National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. Founded in 1940, the NFB is the transformative membership and advocacy organization of blind Americans with affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at nfb.org.
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)
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SOURCE National Federation of the Blind
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