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Leon County makes accessible absentee ballots available for 2022 elections

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Vote buttons stack with red and blue colors

More Leon County voters with disabilities will have the option to complete their ballots at home without the help of another person in this year’s elections.

“It gives them a lot more security and a lot more comfort in the fact that they are voting in the way they intend to vote,” said Olivia Babis, senior public policy analyst at Disability Rights Florida. The organization has been working with county elections offices to get the word out about the statewide availability of accessible vote-by-mail ballots.

As part of a legal settlement between the state and the Florida Council of the Blind, elections supervisors in every county must make accessible ballots available in the 2022 elections. This means they must give voters with disabilities the option to fill out a ballot electronically at home using their own device and interface.

Babis and other disability rights advocates have pushed state leaders to make it possible for voters with disabilities to submit their absentee ballots electronically. "We would like to see a fully accessible process and allow electronic ballot return."

Many voters with disabilities don't own printers, she said. That could create additional hurdles to casting a ballot. "We've been assured that the ballot can be downloaded onto the flash drive so they can take it somewhere, to a coffee place or to the library, and print it from there. But then we're getting into transportation issues."

In Leon County, voters may sign up online to receive an electronic absentee ballot that they can download onto their device. “Using their own technology, they can have the ballot read to them, and then interface with their computer to have the computer mark their choices.” After that, they must print the ballot and mail it back to the county elections office or drop it off at a secure ballot intake site.

The county’s voters can find out more about the accessible ballots by calling the elections supervisor’s office at 850-606-8683.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.