(KITV) People with disabilities can request Alternate Format Ballot to ensure privacy in mail-in voting

(SOURCE: KITV)

You have to request it from your county clerk office, print it out, seal it in the official state election envelope, sign it and drop it off at a designated deposit box or voter service center.

About 15 percent of Hawaii’s population has a reported disability, and many of them face accessibility challenges when it comes to voting. But changes in this year’s election are helping people with special needs.

Having an all-mail in election eliminated the need for many people with disabilities to travel to polling places and risk exposure during the coronavirus pandemic.

“That has allowed them to be able to vote from home and not have to do the distance so that has been a real great help,” said Lydia Hardie Hemmings, an advocate with the Hawaii Disability Rights Center.

Still, Hemmings reminds people that if they are not registered to vote — they have to do so in person.

“It’s very important that if they are going to go a voter service center that they know that they are doing sanitizing of every polling booth after everyone and they’re going to great lengths to make sure that nothing is getting passed around,” she said.

“We don’t want to catch the COVID. We were not interested in going into Honolulu Hale and using the accessible machines because they’ve had the COVID down there. So it’s better to vote by mail at home,” said Jim Gashel of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii.

But he noted an issue with the state’s mail-in ballot.

“We’re very concerned that we would be able to access and complete ballots privately and independently, in other words, we didn’t just want to get our ballot in the mail and have somebody else mark it for us,” he said.

To address that, Hawaii is offering for the first time an electronic “Alternate Format Ballot”, emailed as an HTML file. You have to request it from your county clerk office.

“Understand this is the first time. So we’ll get these glitches on here and down and it’ll be better next time. But it was a little difficult to get them to send me and some others, the actual ballot without a little advocacy let’s put it that way,” Gashel said.

If you haven’t voted yet, you can still request an “Alternate Format Ballot.” Be sure to print it out, seal it in the official state election envelope, sign it and drop it off at an official deposit box or voter service center. 

If you’re having difficulty voting, the Hawaii Disability Rights Center can help. Visit hawaiidisabilityrights.org, call 808-949-2922 or 1-800-882-1057 or info@hawaiidisabilityrights.org

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