ST. PAUL, Minn. (KEYC) — Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon announced Wednesday that the state has expanded voting opportunities for voters with disabilities.
The new suite of tools includes a service for accessible absentee ballots, a new series of video fact sheets in American Sign Language and a voter information hotline in American Sign Language.
“The right to vote is a right for everyone who is eligible, no matter what method they use,” Simon said. “These resources will make exercising the power of the vote more accessible to all Minnesotans.”
The service for accessible absentee ballots will allow voters to vote absentee by receiving their ballot in an accessible format, instead of by mail. This service is intended for voters with impaired vision or who could have difficulty physically marking a ballot and operates similarly to the system used to transmit ballots to members of the military or voters abroad.
Similar to military and overseas voters, domestic voters who utilize this service will be required to return their ballot in paper form to their respective county.
“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 long-standing, nonpartisan partnership with the Secretary of State to make this system even better in the future.”
Anyone interested in requesting an accessible ballot should contact their local county election office.
The new series of video fact sheets in American Sign Languare was produced by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office in collaborations with the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, Deafblind, and Hard of Hearing.
“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, Ph.D., executive director for the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing. “With the new video fact sheets in American Sign Language and with the establishing [of] 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 short videos mirror information the Secretary of State’s Office provides in print will give voters who communicate in ASL crucial information about how to cast their vote, whether that be in-person or absentee.
Lastly, the voter information hotline in American Sign Language is a partnership between the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office and the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, Deafblind, and Hard of Hearing.
The hotline will be available starting Friday, Oct. 23, and will be staffed Monday through Friday for a portion of each day, except on Election Day, when it will be staffed all day.
Voters will be able to call the hotline to get information in ASL on how to vote, where to vote, how to track their absentee ballot and other information related to the election.
The direct videophone voter hotline number is (612) 293-4288.
“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.”