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ACLU of RI Applauds New Online Voter Registration Law

Posted: April 06, 2016|Category: Discrimination Rights of the Disabled Voting Rights

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The ACLU of Rhode Island today commended Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea for introducing, the General Assembly for passing, and Governor Gina Raimondo for signing legislation adopting online voter registration for the state’s residents, and particularly for addressing voters with disabilities.

While Rhode Island is the 35th state to adopt online registration, its law is the first in the country to establish detailed assurances that voters with disabilities will have full access to this online process.

Without such assurances, people who are, for example, blind or visually impaired or who have disabilities preventing them from using a mouse or keyboard would likely face difficulties registering online.  However, Rhode Island’s new online voter registration law:

* Requires experts on website disability access to be included in the development of the site and to verify that it is useable for people with disabilities;

* Requires the site to follow certain detailed accessibility standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium; and

* Requires full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

report issued by the ACLU and the Center for Accessible Technology last year found that only one state – California – had a fully accessible online registration site. Many states didn’t even meet basic accessibility standards. The ACLU expressed hope that other states would soon follow Rhode Island’s lead in addressing this important voter registration access issue.

Nicole Kief, Advocacy and Policy Strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union in New York, said:  “We applaud Rhode Island for setting a national standard. As states update their voting systems to fit with modern life, it's critical that those systems are open and accessible to all voters.” Susan Mizner, Disability Counsel at the ACLU, added: “Rhode Island's preemptive action to ensure accessibility is not only smart as an inclusive step, it's also financially savvy. It will save Rhode Island the costs that other states are likely to incur when they have to re-design their inaccessible websites.”

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