Proposed bill would give blind Marylanders their secret ballot back

Posted at 11:57 AM, Feb 28, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A bill being proposed to the General Assembly would restore a secret ballot that used to be available to blind Marylanders.

Until 2016, blind voters, and other voters with disabilities, were able to cast their votes independently and in secret using the same system everyone else uses. For the 2016 and 2018 elections, the Maryland State Board of Elections adopted a new voting system which has made a lot of voters upset.

The new system lets blind voters cast their ballots privately and independently, but they are different in size and content compared to the ballots everyone else fills in, so they are easily identifiable.

Now, the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is supporting a bill that would require all voters to use the same voting system once again. If the bill passes, it would go into effect for the 2020 election season.

“Sadly, the Maryland Board of Elections has deliberately and repeatedly violated Maryland law and the rights of blind voters, despite our efforts to persuade the board against this illegal and immoral course of action,” said Ronza Othman, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. “We are therefore asking the General Assembly to require that all voters use the same voting system, so that the ballots of blind or disabled voters will no longer be segregated and identifiable.”

Under the bill, all voters would use an electronic BMD with audio, magnification, and other features that would allow it to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Although people would be making their choices electronically, the computer would make a paper ballot, fulfilling Maryland's requirements for physical paper records of votes.