An election victory for the ‘print disabled’


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Just two weeks until the big day, and a new agreement has been “inked” in Hartford. The agreement is between the State and the National Federation of the Blind Connecticut. The deal allows a private vendor to create a special ballot for those who are “Print Disabled.”

MaryAnn Melley, the President of National Federation of the Blind Connecticut says, “This has been a huge awakening. Not just in Connecticut, but across the country that it is time.”

Time for equal access to absentee ballots.

Back in July, News 8 first introduced you to Mary Ann Melley the President of the National Federation of the Blind in Connecticut and her guide dog Homer.

She and other “Print Disabled” voters did not have access to cast an absentee ballot independently during the August Primary, even in the midst of COVID.

Their only option was to use an IVS computer system with a brail touchpad. And if the town clerk rolled it outside to the curb, only then could they avoid going into the polls.

“The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) just celebrated 30 years and now in 2020 the wake up call is here that we deserve to be able to vote privately and independently just as everyone else is able to do,” remarked Melley.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill acknowledges, “Since we were on a one time basis providing this for everyone else, we really needed to come up with a solution for these folks.”

There are 6,000 people in Connecticut who qualify as “print disabled” – they can not effectively read print on a document because they are blind, or have a physical disability.

There is now an online application on the Secretary of the State’s website to get a “special absentee ballot” only for this group of voters.

Voice recognition software allows them to fill the paperwork out on-line.

Folks like MaryAnn who are print disabled will receive a ballot packet from their town clerk. They will not vote by using a yellow ballot. Instead, they’ll get a special ballot from the Secretary of the State’s office. It will allow them a private vote just like everyone else.

“We would print it out sign it and put it in any of these drop boxes, or mail it to the town clerk’s office,” added Melley.

These special ballots will then be hand counted by election officials.

The federation in Connecticut was going to sue the state in court. But by working together, voting by absentee ballot independently is now possible.

A right which is described as “the crown jewel of American liberties.”

The National Federation of the Blind in Connecticut has a hotline incase anyone is having trouble with the process. The number is 860-289-1971.

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