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Legislative & Policy Spotlight

Disability Rights Pennsylvania Letter on Potential Disenfranchisement of Voters with Disabilities

Disability Rights Pennsylvania, along with voting advocates and disability advocates sent a letter to Pennsylvania policy makers related to recent stories of voter fraud, and our concern about people with disabilities not being aware of their rights to have a designated agent return their ballot for them.

A designated agent is someone who goes to the county election office on the voter’s behalf to effectuate the process of applying for, picking up, or returning the ballot. An agent may also return a ballot through the mail.  Anyone with a disability, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, that prevents him or her from applying for, obtaining, or returning a mail-in or absentee ballot is entitled to use a designated agent. Designated agents are a necessary accommodation for anyone with a disability who wishes to vote through the mail but cannot do so without assistance. For example, voters with physical disabilities may be unable to put their ballot into the mail, or those who are susceptible to severe COVID-19 due to age or an underlying medical condition may not feel safe doing so.

We fear recent allegations of “voter fraud” related to the use of designated agents will have a chilling effect, resulting in fewer voters exercising their right to vote. We believe ignorance about the concept of a “designated agent” both on the part of election officials and the general public, is muddying the waters and risks widespread disenfranchisement of voters with disabilities.  Voter education is important and the only tool to ensure that voters with disabilities are knowledgeable about their rights.

You can read the letter here.