Election Assistance Forum

U.S. Election Assistance Commission Holds Forum on Accessibility and Security

By PVA National Staff

On Thursday, February 20, Senior Associate Advocacy Director Lee Page attended the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) 2020 Elections Disability, Accessibility, and Security Forum. Voting has already started for the 2020 elections, but addressing the growing concerns regarding accessibility and security is an important, ongoing conversation. 

The 2020 Elections Disability, Accessibility, and Security Forum brought together state and local election officials, people with disabilities, disability advocates, and election security experts to discuss issues and advance solutions. The collaborative workshops and EAC’s efforts aim to assist election officials serving voters with disabilities in the 2020 elections and beyond. All four EAC commissioners were in attendance and played a leading role in promoting collaboration between participants.

The goal of the workshops was to identify major challenges and opportunities with respect to accessibility and security in election administration. Topics for workshop discussions included the 2020 elections and voters with disabilities, ballot-marking devices, proven best practices in voting accessibility, vote-by-mail, paper ballots, emerging voting technology for people with disabilities, and polling place access.

Disability rights advocates urged election officials to focus on accessibility alongside security for U.S. elections and pushed for more technological solutions that would allow all Americans to cast secure votes.

EAC Chairwoman Christy McCormick noted during the summit that 14.3 million Americans with disabilities voted during the 2018 midterm elections, a number she said would “certainly increase” during the upcoming 2020 presidential election.  “We must ensure any technological voting solutions offer universal access and do not infringe upon a voter’s privacy,” McCormick said. “People with disabilities have the right to a seamless integrated and welcoming voting process at the polls.”

Concerns around the use of technology in elections were also heightened this month following the use of a new vote tabulation app by the Iowa Democratic Party during the Iowa caucuses. The app malfunctioned due to a “coding issue,” leading to chaos around the final vote tally. 

After these incidents, election security experts have advocated for using more paper ballots to ensure no individual or group can hack the votes, and to ensure no glitch can occur. 

Moving completely away from technological resources for voting would mean election officials may not be able to provide accessibility for disabled voters. Matt Masterson, a senior cybersecurity advisor and a former EAC commissioner, highlighted the link between accessibility to elections and the security of the vote. 

“I could not agree more that it’s not a debate between the two, that accessibility is security,” Masterson said Thursday. “Privacy and independence are a security question as much as it is an accessibility question, if you can’t vote privately and independently, it is not a secure process.”

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