Guaranteeing Independent & Private Voting for Persons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

WHEREAS, Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires state and local governments to ensure people with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote including voter registration, polling site location, and casting of ballots; and,

WHEREAS, more than twenty-eight years after the passage of the ADA, Pennsylvania voters who are blind or visually impaired have never been afforded the opportunity for a fully accessible absentee ballot which would enable them to vote independently and privately; and,

WHEREAS, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires that each polling site in jurisdictions conducting federal elections have at least one voting system that is accessible, including to citizens who are blind or visually impaired, which provides the same opportunity for access and participation, including privacy and independence, which other voters enjoy; and,

WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will be decertifying fully accessible machines that have been providing voter access for over a decade and forcing its counties to move to a paper record balloting system; and,

WHEREAS, the Commonwealth will be certifying a new collection of voter verifiable balloting machines for the counties to choose from, with the goal of implementation by 2020; and,

WHEREAS, the most basic voting process of writing on a paper ballot is not accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired; and,

WHEREAS, the technology exists to provide Pennsylvanians who are blind or visually impaired with both an absentee ballot process and an in-person voter-verifiable ballot system which are fully accessible, and provide for an independent, private, and secure vote;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the assembled convention of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind (PCB) on October 21, 2018 at the Doubletree by Hilton Pittsburgh-Greentree, that PCB call on the Governor of the Commonwealth, the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, and each County Board of Elections to make every effort possible to insure that Pennsylvania citizens who are blind or visually impaired are afforded every opportunity to cast an independent and private ballot, both in-person and through absentee procedures, prior to the 2020 General Election; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that PCB strongly urge the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Bureau of Commissions, Elections, and Legislation to arrange a special, interactive demonstration of all machines under consideration for certification, which is open only to people who are blind or visually impaired, so that these individuals may provide real-world feedback on the accessibility of all processes of these machines, prior to their certification; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, by certifying any machine that is not fully accessible, will be in violation of the ADA and therefore vulnerable to litigation on behalf of citizens who are blind or visually impaired; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation certify an absentee balloting system that is accessible to citizens who are blind or visually impaired, and that a declaration from the Secretary be made to every County Board of Elections requiring the Board to adopt and implement such absentee voting system by the 2020 deadline to receive any moneys allocated to support election upgrades; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that PCB provide a copy of this resolution to all named officials and entities upon its adoption.

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