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In first election without drop boxes, advocates worry about voting accessibility

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no ballots on drop box.jpg

MADISON (WKOW) -- The August 9 primary was the first major election after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled clerks can't use drop boxes to collect ballots. Voting accessibility advocates said that added to the numerous challenges people with disabilities face while trying to cast their ballots.

"That really has been a step backward," Disability Rights Wisconsin's Barbara Beckert said. "Anytime that you see something taken away that has helped to support participation in our elections in a manner that is safe, secure and, we hope, accessible, that's really a loss."

Other advocates, including Denise Jess, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, said the drop box ruling is having a disproportionate impact on voters with mobility issues and those who can't drive. 

"It removes, essentially, a really important provision that creates greater access for voting," she said. 

Jess said there are other accessibility issues in the voting process, too, including the format of absentee ballots. 

In Wisconsin, absentee ballots are only available in print form, and Jess said people with vision disabilities often have trouble filling them out and have to rely on someone helping them mark their ballot. 

"I'm fortunate enough to have people in my life that I really trust to fill up my ballot according to my wishes, but, nonetheless, I can't do it privately," she said. "Other voters in the state with blindness or other print-related disabilities may not feel that secure."

Jess and Beckert said accessible voting advocates are pushing for changes at the state level that will make the voting process more inclusive and accessible.

"Those of us with disabilities want to be able to and need to be able to exercise our fundamental right to vote, and we want to see our voting change to be more inclusive to create more pathways to voting for all Wisconsin voters," Jess said.

However, she said, right now, there's not much appetite among legislators to implement any of those changes. 

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