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Voters with disabilities facing more challenges due to pandemic

Posted at 5:20 PM, Oct 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 13:09:19-04

MAGIC VALLEY — Filling out a mail-in voting ballot may not sound like a difficult task, but for visually impaired people, completing this on their own is nearly impossible.

"Those ballots are printed on paper. They are not in large print. They require a signature on them. And those have all been issues and challenges blind and visually impaired individuals here in Idaho have faced this year," Courtney Holthus, Director of Legal and Advocacy Services of DisAbility Rights Idaho, said.

When the state of Idaho decided to pursue an all absentee voting system in May, Holthus tells us many visually impaired people struggled to get their ballots filled out, which led to a lot of complaints.

"There were individuals who tried calling their county clerk's office to see if they could get accommodations, phone calls went unanswered. Some individuals made requests for mail ballots, large print ballots, and they were told sorry we don't offer those," Holthus said.

Although visually impaired people can have someone come to their home and help fill out their ballot, with the pandemic this year, this option will not allow for social distancing, leading some not to feel comfortable utilizing this option.

Lincoln County Clerk, Brenda Farnworth, says for those who don't feel comfortable having someone come to their home and help fill out their ballot, they also offer other options.

"We would encourage people who have that and don't want people to come into their home to use our courthouse drive-in. Give us a call," Farnworth said, "We will bring ballots out to them. Let them vote; if they have someone there with them who can help them fill out the ballot, that's the best."

Disability Rights Idaho says they are working to make sure they help people with disabilities state-wide get the support they need when it comes to voting. Most recently, they sent out voting packets with information on how to vote to assisted living facilities.

"Then we made an offer of hey if you need more assistance, if you need more forms if you need help, please let us know. In all, it was over 600 facilities that received those packets," Holthus said.