Disability Advocates Applaud New California Voting Assistance Bill

the word VOTE with the universal sign for accessibility, a person in a wheelchair, in the O position

by Andy Jones
October 22, 2016

California law currently bars people from collecting ballots on behalf of eligible voters, even those with disabilities or who otherwise may need assistance casting their vote. The only exceptions are for family or household members.

A new bill, signed into law at the end of September, broadens this criteria. Under AB 1921, California voters, starting in 2017, will be able to designate "any person of their choosing" to collect and drop off their ballots.

Disability Rights California and a coalition of other advocacy groups advocated for passage of the bill.

“California is among the few states that explicitly prohibit volunteers or paid canvassers from collecting ballots from voters," DRC wrote in a letter to the state Senate [PDF], dated May 25. "States like Arizona, Oregon and Washington allow anyone to return completed ballots on behalf of a voter.

“People with disabilities who have difficulty returning a mail ballot will now have more options for identifying a person to return the ballot to the post office or other drop-off location.”

As a protection against potential fraud concerns, people assisting with casting ballots will be prohibited from receiving compensation. The measure was approved by a vote of 50-29 in the State Assembly and 26-11 in the State Senate.

“This is yet another step to make it easier for Californians to vote,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the bill’s sponsor, in a news release. “By allowing voters to allow another person to return their ballot, we remove an unnecessary barrier to participation for many voters who may have disabilities or travel challenges that would otherwise prevent their vote from being counted.”

Check out the work being done by the National Disability Rights Network and Protection and Advocacy organizations to protect voting rights for people with disabilities.

Disability Rights Washington and Disability Rights California are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and California, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.