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Maine Makes Absentee Ballots More Accessible For Visually Impaired Voters

An interim agreement reached in a pending lawsuit filed on behalf of four blind or visually impaired Mainers means that Maine voters with certain disabilities will be able to cast absentee ballots from home for the general election in November.

Disability Rights Maine Senior Attorney Kristin Aiello says the new system, launched by the Maine secretary of state, will allow voters to receive and return ballots electronically in Maine.

Aiello says three of the plaintiffs have underlying conditions that make it very risky to be in a polling place.

“To have to vote at home means they have to ask someone to give them a favor to exercise a fundamental right. There was no win there, and yet there was technology available that would make it possible for them to vote absentee safely and independently from home both on state, local and federal ballots,” she says.

Aiello says the technology will allow voters to enlarge ballots or use standard text-to-speech software.

During a virtual press conference Friday afternoon, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says his office was approached by Disability Rights Maine which indicated a number of its members were nervous about going to the polls because of COVID-19 and wanted to get ballots electronically.

"Our intuition was correct. It did take a little bit of time, especially involving the application of including local ballots as well as state, county and federal ballots so that voter has access to everything they have a right to vote on," he says.

Dunlap says the Accessible Absentee Ballot option will become available Friday, Oct. 2.

Ed is a Maine native who spent his early childhood in Livermore Falls before moving to Farmington. He graduated from Mount Blue High School in 1970 before going to the University of Maine at Orono where he received his BA in speech in 1974 with a broadcast concentration. It was during that time that he first became involved with public broadcasting. He served as an intern for what was then called MPBN TV and also did volunteer work for MPBN Radio.