Absentee Voting Options for Hoosier Voters with Print Disabilities

In 2020, Disability Rights Advocates, Indiana Disability Rights, the American Council of the Blind of Indiana, and several individual Indiana voters brought a lawsuit under federal law challenging Indiana’s absentee voting system for discriminating against voters with print disabilities by failing to have a method by which they could vote privately and independently. On March 9, 2022, a federal judge ordered Indiana to open new avenues for voters with print disabilities to cast absentee ballots from home in the upcoming 2022 primary election.

What does this mean for the 2022 primary election? Make your voting plans and submit the relevant forms early! This is especially important if you plan to vote absentee from home. There are new procedures in place for the first time for the May 3, 2022, election. That means that things may not work as intended, and you want to be sure you can address any problems that arise in time to make your vote count! Please be aware that a lot of the Indiana Election Division and Secretary of State’s resources for voters are inaccessible PDFs. If you encounter any problems while voting, please contact Indiana Disability Rights at (317)-722-5555, (800) 622-4845 (toll free), or at info@indianadisabilityrights.org. Please also contact your local County Clerk’s Office to report any issues.

Following the Court’s order, voters with print disabilities have the following options to vote absentee:
1.       In person absentee voting: Also known as “early voting,” voters can vote in person at the Clerk’s Office from April 5, 2022, through 6 p.m. (local prevailing time), Monday, May 2, 2022. Contact your local Clerk’s office for address, directions, and any questions.

2.       Voting by mail-in paper ballot: Apply for a mail-in paper ballot on or before April 21, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. (local prevailing time). The Clerk’s office will mail you a ballot, which you must return to the Clerk’s office prior to the closing of the polls on election day. Completed ballots can be returned in person or by mail, but if mailed must be received by the Clerk (and not merely post-marked) by the close of polls on election day. While these mail-in ballots will be paper ballots, and thus not accessible to voters with print disabilities, voters with print disabilities can rely on the assistance of a person of their choosing (other than an employer or representative of the voter’s union) to complete the ballots.  They will need to sign the affidavit of assistance on the ballot envelope. The mail-in absentee ballot application and additional information can be found in two places:
a.       PDF form to mail in
b.       Online at IndianaVoters.com

3.       Traveling board: The application to request assistance from a traveling board is due no later than May 2, 2022, at 12:00 p.m. (local prevailing time). Voters will need to coordinate with the members of the traveling board to arrange for a time for the board members to visit the voter’s home and assist in completion of the ballots. The traveling board application and additional information can be found at the linked PDF form to mail in.

4.       Voting by email or fax: By new law passed in 2021, voters with print disabilities will be eligible to receive and return ballots by email or fax. Under this system, voters will have to complete, sign, and return a separate document called a secrecy waiver with their completed ballots. At this time, we do not expect that the secrecy waiver and ballots provided under this system will be accessible for voters with print disabilities. However, we depend on you to try out the new system and report any issues you encounter so that we can make sure it is improved for future elections. The Indiana Election Division and Secretary of State are finalizing the procedures for applying for this program.

The online registration form for this program is expected to go live on IndianaVoters.com on April 18, 2022. 
Tip: Remember that if your default settings open PDF documents in your web browser, like Chrome, Edge, or Safari, you will not be able to fill out the PDF no matter how accessible it is.  If you receive a PDF document you want to fill out, save it somewhere on your computer that you can find again, open your document-reading program (Adobe, Preview, etc.), and use the document-reading program to open the PDF.

If you request to receive and return a ballot by email, and any necessary document that you receive is inaccessible, like the ballot, secrecy waiver, or instructions, here is what you can do to preserve your vote:
1.      Save a blank version of the ballot or other inaccessible document to your personal device.
2.       Contact Indiana Disability Rights to report the issues you encounter. This includes if you encounter any inaccessible forms or online processes, if you do not receive an email ballot that you registered for, and/or if you receive a ballot and/or secrecy waiver that is inaccessible and that you cannot complete using your assistive technology.
3.       Contact your County Clerk’s Office to seek guidance on how they recommend you vote in light of the inaccessibility of your ballot. We expect that County Clerks will propose the following options, though it’s possible that they will recommend different procedures:
a.       Print out a blank ballot and bring it to your local polls to surrender so that you may vote in-person.
b.       Complete the electronic ballot with the assistance of a person of your choosing (other than an employer or representative of the voter’s union). This could include:
Printing a blank electronic ballot and marking it in hard copy with the assistance of a person of your choice, then submitting that with a secrecy waiver in-person;
Marking the ballot electronically with the assistance of a person of your choice, then printing the completed ballot with the secrecy waiver to submit in-person;
Submitting the completed ballot and secrecy waiver via email to your County Clerk.
c. Request that the County Clerk send you a mail-in paper ballot and complete it with the assistance of a person of your choosing, like the standard mail-in procedure described above.

Information about voting in Indiana, and absentee voting in particular, can be found at https://indianavoters.in.gov or by contacting your local County Clerk’s office.
If you encounter any issues with mail or email ballots, please contact Indiana Disability Rights at (317) 722-5555, (800) 622-4845 (toll free), or email info@indianadisabilityrights.org