New voting resources are available for those who have disabilities

Staff Writer
Redwood Falls Gazette
Redwood Falls Gazette

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon recently announced a suite of tools to expand opportunities for voting to those with disabilities.

“The right to vote is a right for everyone who is eligible, no matter what method they use” said Simon. “These resources will make exercising the power of the vote more accessible to all Minnesotans.”

A powerful coalition of organizations, including the American Council of the Blind of Minnesota, Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing, the Minnesota Disability Law Center and the Minnesota Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, along with other members of the Secretary of State’s Disability Advisory committee, were instrumental in bringing these tools to voters.

“The commission is thrilled that Minnesota continues to be a leader in championing communication access for voters who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing,” said Darlene G. Zangara, executive director for the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing. “With the new video fact sheets in American Sign Language (ASL) and with the establishing an ASL hotline to answer voter questions, our standards continue to rise. We appreciate working together with the Secretary of State’s Office, community advocates and our stakeholders for barrier-free voting.” 

“The ability to cast a secret ballot has only recently become an option for blind Minnesotans, and today marks a step forward in our decades of advocacy that increases access to voting,” said Ryan Strunk, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. “We applaud these measures to ensure that blind Minnesotans can protect both our safety and our privacy in this election. We look forward to continuing our longstanding, non-partisan partnership with the Secretary of State to make this system even better in the future.”

“The Minnesota Disability Law Center is excited about this option to allow voters with disabilities to safely, privately and independently exercise their right to vote at home and have their voices heard just like other Minnesota voters,” said Justin Page, assistant supervising attorney at the MDLC. “We are honored and pleased to work with the Secretary of State’s Office and the Minnesota Chapter of NFB on making sure absentee ballots are accessible to all voters.”

The new tools include:

• A service for accessible absentee ballots, allowing voters to vote absentee by receiving their ballot in accessible format, instead of by mail. This service is for voters with impaired vision or who would have difficulty physically marking a ballot and operates similarly to the system used to transmit ballots to members of the military or voters abroad. Like military and overseas voters, these domestic voters will be required to return their ballot in paper form to their county. Voters should contact their county election office to request an accessible ballot.

• A new series of video fact sheets in American Sign Language, produced in collaboration with the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, Deafblind, and Hard of Hearing. These short videos, which mirror information that the Secretary of State’s Office provides in print, give voters who communicate in ASL crucial information about how to cast their vote, in-person or absentee. The videos cover four aspects of voting in Minnesota: voters’ rights, assistance to voters, voting early by absentee ballot and election day registration.

• A voter information hotline in American Sign Language, in partnership with the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing, available as of Oct. 23, 2020. The hotline will be staffed Monday through Friday for a portion of each day, and will be staffed all day Nov. 3, Election Day. Voters can call to get information in ASL on how to vote, where to vote, how to track their absentee ballot, and other information related to the 2020 election. The direct videophone voter hotline number is (612) 293-4288.