Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal’s New Law Will Require State Boards of Elections to Post Fully Accessible Sample Ballots Online in Advance of an Election

The new law requires sample ballots to be accessible to visually impaired voters using screen-reading technology

New York, NY – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) today announced that her bill requiring the New York State Board of Elections (BOE) to post sample ballots online in a timely manner in advance of Election Day was signed into law. It includes the crucial requirement that the sample ballot be accessible to people with visual impairments.

“Elections provide and reinforce the very foundation of our democracy, and this new law will help to ensure all voters have access to ballot information before voting begins,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. "Requiring boards of election to post fully accessible sample ballots online ensures that every New Yorker who is ready, willing, able and eligible to vote, regardless of ability, can thoughtfully prepare to cast their ballot.”

The legislation requires each county board of elections to submit candidate and contest information to the State BOE. The State BOE will now be required to create a system allowing voters in any county of the state to access a sample ballot.

While some counties make sample ballots available online in advance of an election, rarely are voters with visual impairments able to use them. This legislation will ensure that any sample ballot posted will be accessible to voters with visual impairments who rely on screen-reading technology. The legislation, A.163/S.1590, was sponsored by James Sanders in the State Senate.

“This new law will also make it possible for blind people and anyone else who cannot read print on paper to know who their local candidates running for elected offices are prior to Election Day. It will also allow them the opportunity to research the candidates and better understand their platforms, and read, review and think about the sometimes-complex questions on the ballot prior to casting their vote,” Lori Scharff, President, American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc.

“I lost my vision to glaucoma in 1991 at the age of twenty-two. Getting involved with the community of people who are blind as I aged, I found a greater need and desire to make my voice heard; however, only getting my first opportunity to read my ballot in the voting booth, I felt as though I was missing out. I know the ability to review the ballots prior to Election Day, will only make me a more educated voter,” said Judith Wieber, a homeowner and registered voter in New York State.