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Utah bill would codify existing protections for voters with disabilities

Utah ballot
Renee Bright
/
KUER
“I don't think there's any dispute that election officials have to comply with the requirements of the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act],” said Nate Crippes with the Disability Law Center.

Utah lawmakers are set to consider a bill that would further protect the right to vote for people with disabilities.

The legislation would require election officials to provide accessible voting options — like auditory machines for people who are blind. They would also have to make rules about how to verify signatures for people who can’t sign their name consistently.

Nate Crippes, an attorney with the Disability Law Center based in Salt Lake City, said this would codify protections that already exist in federal law.

“I don't think there's any dispute that election officials have to comply with the requirements of the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act],” Crippes said. “They have to make reasonable accommodations. And I think what we're trying to say here is: it is a reasonable accommodation for a person to say that the reason the signature doesn't match is because of the disability.”

Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch said this is already common practice in election offices around Utah, but putting it in state law is especially important as more election officials leave their jobs.

“Twenty-five percent of our county clerks have retired or resigned in the past 12 months,” Hatch said. “It's hard coming in. … Sometimes you're going to miss things when you're new and having it in code is one way to help ensure these voters are being served properly.”

Crippes said down the line, his group would like to work on improving accessibility for by-mail or at-home voting, including things like online voting.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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