Testimony in Support of SB 289, the Accessible Vote By Mail Act


April 7, 2022 | by Emma Olson

In April of 2022, the Illinois House Ethics and Elections committee held a hearing on a proposed bill package concerning elections in Illinois. Access Living has been supporting the leadership of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, which is currently led by Marilyn Green as the President and Access Living Board Member Denise Avant is the First VP. Since the pandemic began, they and other blind/low vision advocates have fought to make voting fully accessible, with a priority of doing vote by mail fully electronically.

Below is the testimony prepared by Ryan McGraw, an impacted voter and Access Living’s Home and Community Based Services community organizer.

Hello, I’m Ryan McGraw a community organizer from Access Living and a person with a print disability that would benefit from this legislation.

Accessible vote by mail, is an essential part of our right to vote privately, independently, and in an efficient way.   This issue impacts people across the disability community who have issues when it comes to reading,  writing, and managing the mailing of the ballot independently.    That includes folks who are blind or visually impaired, have limb differences, dexterity challenges, dyslexia, or other disabilities. Everyone should have the right to vote independently, regardless of their disability

As a person with cerebral palsy, I have experienced the inaccessibility of mail in voting first hand. My disability effects my ability to fill in small boxes with a pencil so that it may be unclear who I am voting for in the various sections of the ballot.

My fine motor control also effects my ability to handle the ballot. A ballot is a official document that needs to be kept unblemished. If I am taking the ballot out of the envelope, unfolding it, filling it out, folding it again, and trying to place it back into an envelope there is a high likelihood that the ballot will get wrinkled, ripped, and possibly be considered invalid. Furthermore, the process of mailing in a ballot via snail mail presents challenges for me: sealing, putting the stamp on (if there is not prepaid postage), and writing the address on the envelope all are cumbersome.

It should not be my responsibility to find someone to help me in any stage of this process. As a citizen of this state and country it should be my right to vote independently and privately. Electronic voting through the internet would enable me to have equal voting access and would enable me to vote in an efficient way.

We call on members of this committee to bring this bill to vote, it is essential to ensuring equal voting access. This bill needs to be in effect for the June election. We should not have to wait until the November election, since people with disabilities should have access to the right to vote in ALL elections.

We demand the right to vote!