AT Tip for Voting – Remote Ballot Marking

Thank you AAPD for contributing to this post

An older woman using a tablet computer with keyboard at her desk. Behind her is a portable printer with paper.
Mary Lee Turner votes with remote ballot marking. Photo Credit: Disability Rights Oregon

Our last AT Tip for Voting discussed absentee voting by mail, a method which uses paper ballots and is therefore not accessible to voters who do not use a pen or print on paper. Absentee voting by mail can be a way of avoiding transportation barriers to a polling location, but many persons with disabilities prefer or require computer access to complete forms, including election ballots.

To improve voting access, several states are now making available a method of voting at home known as “Remote Ballot Marking” to their residents. This is an option to mark an accessible digital ballot using a home computer with a voter’s own assistive technology. Ballots marked in this way are not submitted electronically; they are printed and sent to the elections office by mail. (The AAPD emphasizes, “No voter information or ballot data is ever transmitted back to a state or county server. Remote Ballot Marking is NOT internet voting.”) Another term for this voting method is “Accessible Vote By Mail.”

It is important to note, however, that only ballot marking is accessible. Verification and casting the printed ballot remains inaccessible to many voters with vision or motor disabilities as they are unable to privately and independently verify and/or submit the printed ballot.

Below is AAPD’s list of states that provide accessible remote ballot marking:

  • California: Starting June 2018, as part of implementing the Voters Choice Act (SB450), the counties of Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, San Mateo are providing voters with disabilities access to accessible ballots.
  • Hawaii: Starting with the August 2018 Primary, voters with a disability can log in to the voter registration system and, during an active election, download their ballot. The HTML ballots can be marked on the voter’s own PC, Mac, iPad, etc. They print a summary page and mail that back to the county.
  • Maryland: Implemented a remote ballot marking system a few years ago. Anyone can become an absentee voter and can request a link to their ballot, which will be emailed to them. The voter marks their ballot and prints a marked ballot locally to be mailed in.
  • New Mexico: Just adapted the Maryland system. Refer to the Secretary of State’s website for details on when it’s available.
  • Ohio: All 88 counties are under a court order to implement a remote access process by the November election. A voter desiring to vote on their own equipment is required to fill out a special absentee form and supply an email address so the ballot can be emailed to them. More details will be available on the Secretary of State website.
  • Oregon: As a “vote-by-mail” state, all registered voters receive a ballot and return envelope in the mail prior to an election. Voters with a disability can log in to the voter requisition system and, during an active election, download their ballot. The HTML ballots can be marked on the voter’s own PC, Mac, iPad, etc. They print a summary page and mail that back to the county. Here is more information and a sample ballot.

An example of how voters with a disability can vote at home using Remote Ballot Marking is shown in this video by Rooted in Rights:

Disability Rights Oregon – Remote Accessible Voting from John Schmitt on Vimeo.

[Interview with two Oregon voters with disabilities and their stories of how they are able to vote using PC’s in their homes. They are able to download their ballot from the Secretary of State’s website, disconnect from the internet, and mark their choices independently and in private. They then print a summary of their choices and mail it to the county for processing.]

Register to Vote (takes an average of 2 minutes)
Live in a US Territory? Find how to register here
Voter Registration Deadlines from USA.gov
 (subject to change)
Directory of state protection and advocacy voter assistance hotlines
Voter’s Guide to Federal Elections from the US Election Assistance Commission

Stay tuned for more AT Tips for Voting!