Senator MorrisonSPRINGFIELD – Although a record number of people cast their votes by mail in the 2020 General Election, not every registered voter had the privilege to practice their civic duty. Voters with limited manual dexterity or visual impairments – among other disabilities – may not be able to fill out paper ballots by hand, limiting their ability to vote remotely.

To give every person the same opportunity to cast their ballot from the comfort of their home, State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest) is spearheading a measure to provide more accessible remote ballots.

“Voting is a right – regardless of a person’s ability to visit a physical polling location or their ability to write,” Morrison said. “Voters who are disabled should be able to cast their ballots freely, fairly and safely.”

The measure would require the State Board of Elections to create a rule to allow ballots to be sent electronically and be filled out using assistive technology. The electronic ballots will only be available by request under Senate Bill 1907.

Several states, including Ohio, Maryland, and Oregon, have already made electronic ballot marking systems available for remote voting. Assistive technologies commonly used include screen readers, digital magnifiers and text-to-speech software.

“Voting disparities among people with disabilities is a very real issues,” Morrison said. “Just because a person has a disability, doesn’t mean their voice doesn’t matter. Their voices should be elevated so issues – just like low voting accessibility – are taken seriously.”

Additionally, to provide people with a safer and more efficient way to vote, Morrison is spearheading a measure to allow election authorities to establish permanent ballot drop boxes to accept vote-by-mail ballots. Election authorities would be able to receive reimbursement through the federal Help America Vote Act to pay for the boxes. It also allows curbside voting – which could assist people who are disabled vote at polling locations that are not as accessible as they should be.

“Many of us take our ability to vote for granted,” Morrison said. “Imagine going to a polling place where you have to climb stairs or fill out a paper ballot, and that’s something you simply cannot do. Just imagine how discouraging that is to a person.”

Senate Bill 1906 is similar to a measure sponsored by Morrison during January session that did not make it out of the House due to limited time.

Both measures await committee assignment.