New vote by mail technology for vision-impaired voters
10/6/2020, 11:09 p.m.
Will County Clerk Lauren Staley Ferry is offering visually impaired voters in Will County an option to vote by mail without assistance in the 2020 election thanks to a system that allows them to use audio instructions to navigate and mark their ballots.
The system, known as Accessible Vote By Mail (AVBM), is similar to the Illinois State Board of Elections’ MOVE (Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment) process that allows overseas military personnel to receive a ballot electronically then return a marked hard copy to an election authority for voting.
“Record numbers of people are choosing Vote By Mail Ballots this year to avoid possible COVID exposure. It is especially important that visually impaired voters have the same choice to Vote By Mail without assistance,” said Clerk Staley Ferry. “The AVBM system has all the security features of regular voting by mail while adding audio navigation of the ballot for an independent voting experience.”
Users of AVBM must apply for a regular Vote By Mail Ballot and then request an accessible Vote By Mail Ballot from the County Clerk’s Office by phone at (815) 740-4615, email at email@example.com, online at www.thewillcountyclerk.com, or in person at 302 N. Chicago St. in downtown Joliet.
Voters using AVBM will receive a secure return envelope from the Will County Clerk’s Office but will not receive a paper ballot. Instead, they will receive a unique PIN and a link to access their ballot electronically from the Illinois State Board of Elections, which is administering the AVBM program.
After following audio directions to navigate and mark the ballot electronically, an AVBM voter prints the ballot and returns it to the election authority in the secure Vote By Mail Envelope. As with all voters casting ballots by mail, users of AVBM will receive instructions to follow their ballots as they are delivered to the local election authority and recorded.
“Accessible Vote By Mail gives blind and visually impaired voters the same secure and COVID-free voting method that already has been chosen by more than 1.5 million voters statewide,” said Jordan Homer, the Illinois State Board of Elections’ Americans with Disability Act coordinator. “While visually impaired voters still can cast a regular mail ballot with assistance if they wish, AVBM technology allows them to do so independently.”
Applications for Vote By Mail ballots can be submitted through Oct. 29. Voters are encouraged to apply now to allow sufficient time for delivery and return of ballots. Returned Vote By Mail Ballots must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3. Properly postmarked ballots that arrive through Nov. 17 will be counted.
Accessible Vote By Mail was developed by VotingWorks, a non-partisan non-profit developer of election systems. For more information, visit https://voting.works/.