When we go to the polling place on election day, most of us feel comfortable knowing that we get to vote in private. But if you are someone with a disability, you may have to give up some of your privacy rights in order to vote.
Many people with disabilities vote using an absentee ballot. Virginia law allows you to request an absentee ballot, and then vote by mail or vote early, if your have a disability that will make it difficult to vote on election day or if you are caring for someone with a disability and that care makes it difficult to get away to vote. But under current law, when you request that ballot, you have to describe your disability in some detail. In some years, VOPA was told by voters that their application was rejected because they did not provide enough detail about their disability.
That is alarming to us, but what is more alarming is something most voters do not know: applications for absentee ballots are public information. The details that you might be forced to give about your disability are open to anyone in the public who asks to see that information.
People with disabilities will soon regain some measure of privacy in voting, thanks to the dedicated work of state Senator Adam Ebbin. His proposed bill, SB967, eliminates the requirement that people with disabilities or their caretakers need to provide proof of a disability. That bill passed the Senate last month and was approved by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections this morning. We will track the bill on its way to adoption by the full House, and celebrate the day when privacy rights in voting are granted to Virginians with disabilities