Regarding State Legislation to Permit Electronic Return of By-Mail Ballots

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 (ADA) requires that voters with print disabilities must be provided an opportunity to mark and return their by-mail ballot privately and independently that is equal to the opportunity provided voters without disabilities; and

WHEREAS, Section 9-308.1 of the Code of Maryland permits an accessible online ballot-marking tool that allows blind users to mark a by-mail ballot privately and independently, but Maryland law does not permit ballots marked with this tool to be returned electronically; and

WHEREAS, the requirement to print out a by-mail ballot after marking it privately and independently with Maryland's accessible online ballot-marking tool is a barrier that prevents some blind voters from using the online ballot-marking tool because they need the assistance of a sighted person to 1) confirm that the ballot printed correctly, 2) show them where to sign the ballot oath, and 3) address an envelope to their local board of elections; and

WHEREAS, the lack of electronic ballot return is also a barrier to many blind voters because they do not own a printer and therefore need to have someone else print their ballot or use a public printer, compromising their right to privacy and independence; and

WHEREAS, long mailing times experienced by military and overseas voters sometimes result in their ballots not being received at their elections office in time to be counted, thus resulting in their disenfranchisement, and the same fate can befall blind Marylanders who use the accessible online ballot-marking tool even if all the other barriers to returning their by-mail ballots are surmounted; and

WHEREAS, the ability to return a by-mail ballot electronically would ensure that the entire process of voting by mail would be accessible to voters with print disabilities, and would further ensure that their ballots and the by-mail ballots of military and overseas voters would be received at the elections office in time to be counted; and

WHEREAS, the electronic return of by-mail ballots is currently available to both military and overseas voters and voters with disabilities in Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, and West Virginia: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this thirteenth day of November, 2022, in the City of Towson, Maryland, that this organization demand that the Maryland General Assembly pass legislation during the 2023 legislative session to permit the electronic return of by-mail ballots for both military and overseas voters and voters with disabilities.