Many Americans voted by absentee ballot last election due to the pandemic. Absentee ballots are paper documents and require sight to fill out; for Americans who are blind or have low vision, this poses an accessibility barrier. These citizens can only fill out an absentee ballot with the help of a sighted person, which means their vote is no longer private.
A number of groups, including the American Council of the Blind in Virginia, have combined forces to file a complaint claiming that the state violated several laws (privacy being one of them). The courts required that Virginia take action, and in the November 2020 election, Virginians with vision impairments were able to request an electronic absentee ballot. The president of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia commented, “We are pleased that Virginia is among the states where the right of blind voters to mark our absentee ballots safely, privately and independently is secure.”
Beyond the lawsuit, the state legislature recently passed the Voting Rights Act of Virginia (House Bill; Senate Bill). From now on, citizens of Virginia who are blind or have low vision can request an electronic absentee ballot for any election.