More New Disabled Voters Use Maines Online Voting System/Public News Service

Advocates for Mainers with disabilities say the state’s online voting system is helping to increase turnout among this group of voters, some of whom may not have reliable transportation to get to the polls.

The state launched accessible postal voting during the pandemic in 2020. It allows people with disabilities to vote from home, just like Mainers serving in the military or living overseas.

Cathy Bustin, director of special projects for Disability Rights Maine, said the online platform is helping more people have a say in issues affecting their daily lives.

“Health care, transportation, our ability to work and get paid; these are serious issues, especially for people with disabilities,” Bustin said.

Bustin noted that online voting helps people with disabilities increase their visibility whether or not they turn up at the polls, and helps dismantle negative stereotypes that may prevent some people from voting in the first place. A person is also allowed to bring someone into the voting booth to help out if needed.

About 11% of Mainers have serious mobility issues, making it impossible for some to vote in person. But if they do, Bustin said a poll worker should provide them with the accessible voting system, which allows the user to mark their ballot using a touchscreen, controller or audio device. Bustin advised people with disabilities not to be shy when it comes to voting.

“Ask for the chair if you need to sit down,” Bustin recommended. “Don’t worry if you don’t know how to use the ballot. Ask the election officials.”

State and federal laws require all polling places to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the Maine Equal Rights Act. If a polling station is physically inaccessible to a voter, private curbside voting should be made available.

Disability Rights Maine has an election hotline that people can call on Election Day if they have concerns, at 800-452-1948. They can also contact the office of the Maine Secretary of State.

Support for this report was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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