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Why one Idahoan had to change the way she usually votes

Posted at 6:10 PM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 20:10:18-04

TWIN FALLS — For the last five years, one Idahoan has been exercising her right to vote by using the accessible voting machine at poll centers. Since she is completely blind, the machines have given her the ability to cast her vote without asking for help.

"The first time I voted independently and privately using the accessible voting machine, I just left with a feeling of pride and a sense of being equal to everyone else," Dianna Willis, an Idaho voter, said.

Many people with disabilities faced some challenges when it came to voting this year because of the pandemic. Those with visual impairments had to make adjustments to their usual way of voting.

Some voters with visual impairments have even had to give up their privacy to have someone help them fill out their absentee ballot, according to Disability Rights Idaho, an organization that has been helping voters with disabilities make sure they know their rights.

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

For the first time in her voting history, Willis voted using a mail-in absentee ballot. Willis says she felt since she had someone she trusted to help her fill out the ballot, she felt more comfortable with this option.

"It was a tough decision because I value being able to vote privately and independently, which I've been able to do. I've had an excellent experience doing that for the last five years," Willis said.

Visually impaired and blind people face many challenges when voting in person, including trusting a poll worker to help you fill out your ballot while also social distancing.

"I know there are great people there but not being able to see just makes it that much more complicated and stressful when you can't see who is by you and if they're wearing a mask or not," Willis said.

Moving forward, Willis hopes more options are available for people with disabilities to be able to vote at home and independently.

"Really problem-solving with how we can make this available to everyone who needs it across the state," Willis said.

Disability Rights Idaho is working to make sure voters with disabilities are aware of their voting rights. Most recently, they partnered with Lyft to offer a $30 credit to help get voters to the polls.

If you need a ride to the polls, you can obtain the credit with the code NDRNVOTE.
The code provides up to a maximum of $30 credit on one Lyft car ride to a polling location anywhere in the US. This includes drop boxes for those who are voting absentee. Limited quantities are available. The Promo code is valid from Oct. 21st through Nov. 3rd.

If you or someone you know needs help with voting, you can contact Disability Rights Idaho.