2020 is a major election year, with the fall primary in August and the presidential and general election in November. Safety precautions due to COVID-19 posed unique challenges for many voters with vision loss, other voters with disabilities and older adults. Act now to be sure you are prepared for these upcoming elections. Your vote is critical. We recognize that in time of civil unrest, voting may seem inadequate. It is important to note that voting is one piece of a complex puzzle of addressing complicated issues facing us as a country.
Request an Absentee Ballot
With the impact of the coronavirus predicted to extend throughout the summer and potentially into the fall, you may not feel safe venturing to the polls to cast your ballot. You can request to have your ballot mailed to you prior to each or all future elections. Putting your request in now, alleviates the stress of doing it closer to the elections and helps assure the likelihood of receiving your ballot on time. Here is how:
- Visit https://myvote.wi.gov to begin the request process. This is a screen-reader accessible site and it also responds well to magnification.
- When requesting your ballot, you will need to choose whether to receive absentee ballots for a designated period or to choose the “indefinitely confined” option.
- If choosing a designated amount of time, you will need to upload a photo of your State of Wisconsin ID, if you do not already have one on file. The system will notify you if you need to upload the ID. This can be a challenging task for those with vision loss. Tip: Ask a friend or loved one to take a photo for you or send a test photo to someone you trust.
- If choosing “indefinitely confined,” you do not need to upload the ID. People who are blind or visually impaired qualify under the law as indefinitely confined, even if we are out and about in our communities. So, this is a legitimate option. You can change your status at any time.
- After requesting your ballot, you can visit the MyVote website to check the status of your registration. After completing your ballot later, you can check the status of your ballot to see if it has been received by your municipal clerk.
Lack of Accessible Absentee Ballots: What to Do
Currently, Wisconsin does not have an accessible absentee ballot option, which means many people living with vision loss cannot independently and confidentially complete the ballot. Here is what to do:
- Plan well in advance of the elections to identify a trusted individual, who can assist you in completing your ballot. Consider having a couple of people in the queue to assist with your ballot, if your first-choice person is not available. Again, planning will reduce the stress and anxiety of attempting to get assistance just before your ballot needs to be mailed back. The person assisting you can also help you sign your absentee envelope.
- Stay updated with Council publications. We are leading the advocacy effort to institute an accessible absentee ballot and will post updates about how you can assist if you are interested.
- Stay tuned to the voting landscape in general over the next months. Many voting advocacy groups are working diligently to ensure that all voters have the right to vote safely in the upcoming elections.
Voting in-Person at the Polls.
It is your right to vote in-person at the polls on Election Day. Here some important things to know:
- Know where your polling place is in advance of the election and decide to get there. It is important to note that in the April election, several polling places closed or moved locations. This may be the same situation, depending on the current status of the Pandemic and availability of poll workers. This may mean your usual polling site is not available and the changes may be very last minute. Make sure you have a back-up plan for transportation to the polls.
- State law requires that every polling place has accessible voting equipment and it is your right to be able to use it. If you are denied access or the equipment is not properly set up, please notify the Chief Election Inspector on site or your municipal clerk. You can also call the Disability Rights Wisconsin Voter Hotline at 1-844-347-8683 for help. That line is answered by a staff member throughout the entire Election Day.
- Practice all recommended safety measures. This includes not going to the polls if you are sick, frequently washing hands and maintaining at least 6 feet distance from others.
- Consider bringing an assister to the polls to help navigate all the signage, lines and physical distancing requirements.
To learn more and stay up to date:
- Sign up for the Council’s monthly Legislative Advocacy email either at WCBlind.org or, emailing us at info@WCBlind.org or calling 800-783-5213.
- Visit the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition website at https://disabilityvote.org.
Have You Completed the 2020 Census?
Information from the census is vital for important funding for public transportation, programs like the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Medicaid, K-12 education, including services for students who are blind and visually impaired and many other programs. Your participation is vital to supporting and strengthening this funding.
It only takes a few minutes and can be completed online or via paper form. Go to https://2020census.gov to complete the form online or learn more. This site is screen reader and magnification accessible. There is also a telephone option if you prefer.