Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced that a federal court has approved a consent decree negotiated by his office that will allow Virginians with disabilities to participate in November’s election while also promoting public health and encouraging safe absentee voting.
Under the terms of the approved consent decree, the Commonwealth will provide Virginia voters with disabilities various options, including using screen reader assistive technology, to vote privately and independently. The order was approved by Judge Claude M. Hilton in the Eastern District of Virginia.
“As Attorney General, I have a duty to make sure that every eligible Virginian, including those with disabilities, are able to exercise their right to vote, while also promoting health and safety,” said Herring. “Safe, secure voting in Virginia has been a top priority of mine as we continue to navigate the various challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. This agreement is another big win for democracy and for Virginia voters, who continue to worry about their health and safety during this time.”
The consent decree states that “the Court finds that…[the] Decree is fair, adequate, and reasonable…because such agreement preserves the Constitutional right to vote…while promoting public health during a pandemic and does so without harming the integrity of Virginia’s elections.”
As part of the consent decree, the Commonwealth agreed to “make available to all localities a tool that will allow print disabled voters to electronically receive and mark absentee ballots using screen reader assistive technology.” Additionally, the Commonwealth will “issue updated guidance to…registrars” and “instructions to all localities that the localities must make the Ballot Marking Tool available to all print disabled voters.” The Commonwealth will also “take reasonable steps to provide information to the public regarding the Ballot Marking Tool.”