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The Visually Impaired Voter Assistance Act

The intent of the Legislature to promote the fundamental right to vote of visually impaired individuals

By Chris Micheli, January 23, 2022 3:13 pm

California’s Elections Code, in Division 2 (Voters), Chapter 1 (Voter Qualifications), Article 3 (Visually Impaired Voters), contains the Visually Impaired Voter Assistance Act of 1989. The title is contained in Section 2050. Section 2051 defines “visually impaired” to mean a person having central visual acuity not to exceed 20-200 in the better eye, with corrected lenses, or visual acuity greater than 20-200, but with a limitation in the field of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends at an angle of not greater than 20 degrees.

Section 2052 states the intent of the Legislature to promote the fundamental right to vote of visually impaired individuals, and to make efforts to improve public awareness of the availability of state voter information guide audio recordings and improve their delivery to these voters.

Section 2053 requires the Secretary of State to establish a Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee. The Secretary of State is required to consult with the committee and consider the committee’s recommendations related to improving the accessibility of elections for voters with disabilities. The Secretary of State may implement the committee’s recommendations as he or she deems appropriate.

This Committee consists of the Secretary of State, his or her designees, and additional members appointed by the Secretary of State. The appointees are required to have demonstrated experience with accessibility requirements for voters with disabilities or be a county elections official. The Committee serves in an advisory capacity to the Secretary of State and is required to do all of the following:

  • Establish guidelines for reaching as many voters with disabilities as practical.
  • Make recommendations for improving the availability and accessibility of election materials, including, but not limited to, state voter information guides, county voter information guides, and vote-by-mail ballots, and their delivery in print or alternative formats to voters with disabilities.
  • Increase the distribution of public service announcements identifying the availability of election materials for voters with disabilities at least 45 days before any federal, state, and local election.
  • Make recommendations for improving the accessibility of election materials made available on Internet Web sites that are in compliance with the most current, ratified standards of federal law and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 adopted by the World Wide Web Consortium for accessibility.
  • Promote the Secretary of State’s toll-free voter registration telephone line for citizens needing voter registration information, including information for individuals with disabilities, and the California State Library and regional library services for individuals who are unable to read conventional print due to a visual, intellectual, learning, physical, or any other disability.
  • Make recommendations for providing voters with disabilities the same access and participation as is provided to other voters who are not disabled, including the ability to vote privately and independently.
  • Establish subcommittees to further the scope and purposes of the committee as they relate to improving voter services and access for individuals with disabilities, including, but not limited to, visually impaired voters and deaf or hard of hearing voters.
  • Promote the use of plain language and alternative formats for election materials.
  • Make recommendations for materials to train poll workers on issues related to serving voters with disabilities and providing accessible voting locations.
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