Judge Jennifer P. Wilson
Judge Jennifer P. Wilson

Responding to a federal court order, Pennsylvania will provide an at-home method of voting accessible to blind individuals for the June 2 primary election.

To take advantage of it, however, and avoid the risk of voting in person during the Covid-19 pandemic, sight-impaired voters face a tight deadline.

To be eligible, they must already have requested a mail-in ballot by the Monday, May 26, deadline, but have not yet submitted their vote.

If that's the case, they must submit an email request to [email protected] by 8 p.m. Friday, May 29.

The email should include the voter's full name, date of birth and address on file with the Department of State.

The department will respond electronically, providing a write-in ballot, a declaration of eligibility to vote, a candidate list, and instructions. They will all be accessible, readable via screen reader software.

Voters must complete and authenticate the declaration form. They should then vote, print out their voted ballot and return it to their county elections office by 8 p.m. June 2. A postmark is not sufficient.

The option is the result of a preliminary injunction issued Wednesday in federal district court in a lawsuit brought by the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania on behalf of plaintiff Joseph Drenth.

The lawsuit alleges Pennsylvania's mail-in ballot system violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it requires blind people to enlist help from sighted people to vote, depriving them of their right to a secret ballot.

While the suit proceeds, the plaintiffs petitioned for an "interim solution," which the court granted. Without it, blind voters would have to choose "between forfeiting their right to vote privately and independently or risking their health and safety," Judge Jennifer P. Wilson wrote.

Tim Stuhldreher
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