WHEREAS, the ability to cast a secret ballot independently is a cornerstone of our democracy that enables citizens to vote their conscience without fear; and

WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that voters with disabilities be afforded an opportunity to exercise the right to vote that is equivalent to the opportunity afforded to voters without disabilities; and

WHEREAS, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act states that public entities that receive federal financial assistance may not discriminate against people with disabilities in their programs, services, or activities; and

WHEREAS, the ES&S ExpressVote accessible ballot marking device (BMD) procured by the Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) and deployed at all early voting centers and polling places for federal and state elections produces a ballot that is different in size and content from the ballot that is hand-marked by the majority of voters, and, as a result, denies blind voters and other voters with print disabilities a secret ballot; and

WHEREAS, the deployment of the ExpressVote as a secondary ballot marking system to be used primarily by the blind and other voters with print disabilities results in a separate and unequal voting system that poll workers frequently do not know how to set up or operate, forcing many blind voters to either vote with assistance or to wait while poll workers figure out how to set up the machine; and

WHEREAS, SBE's lease with ES&S for the ExpressVote ended on March 30, 2021, and was extended to March 30, 2023, with an option to extend to March 30, 2025, yet SBE has done nothing to plan for the acquisition of additional ExpressVote BMDs or to acquire a sufficient number of new, cheaper tablet-based BMDs so that all voters could use the same ballot-marking system; and

WHEREAS, the Maryland State Board of Elections provides an accessible online ballot-marking tool that allows blind and low-vision voters to mark a by-mail ballot privately and independently using a computer and their own access technology, but requires that the marked ballot be printed out, signed, and returned by mail or placed in a drop box; and

WHEREAS, many blind voters do not own or have easy access to printers and as a result must rely on a friend, family member, or copy center to print their ballot, and also need sighted assistance to sign the ballot, which jeopardizes both the secrecy of their ballot and their independence; and

WHEREAS, accessible electronic ballot return enables blind and low-vision voters to return a by-mail ballot privately and independently using their own access technology without needing to print or sign the ballot; Now, therefore,


BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in convention assembled this fourteenth day of November, 2021, in the city of Baltimore, that this organization reaffirm its commitment to ending segregated voting for people with disabilities by insisting that one voting system be created for all in-person voters; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we condemn and deplore the failure of the Governor, the General Assembly, and the Maryland State Board of Elections to remedy this ongoing violation of voting rights when they have known about the problem for the last seven years; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the State Board of Elections thoroughly investigate the use of modern voting systems and that the Governor and Maryland General Assembly fund both this investigation and the ultimate adoption of a new voting system that eliminates the barriers created by the current separate and unequal voting system; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the State Board of Elections join the twenty-first century and allow both electronic delivery and return of ballots by voters with disabilities—as currently permitted by the states of Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia— so that Maryland voters with print disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to vote by mail privately and independently as required by federal law.