Charleston — During a judiciary committee meeting Monday, West Virginia lawmakers voted to recommend a bill to the state Senate and House of Delegates that would allow people who can't visit the voting booth due to physical disability to vote by electronic absentee ballot.
Only a couple "nays" were heard, including Del. Marshall Wilson, R-Berkeley, who expressed cybersecurity concerns during the meeting.
Currently, West Virginia code requires those who want to vote absentee due to disability to be blind or have disabilities of their hands, or be "permanently and totally disabled."
The bill would remove those requirements and change the definition of "disability" to align with that of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which defines physical disability as "a physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities and renders a person unable to vote in person, at the polls, without assistance."
"It's something we need to do now," said Donald Kersey, counsel for the West Virginia secretary of state. "The reason for that is it's the right thing to do. It's the legally required thing to do. If we don't do it, we're going to have to do it anyway by the order of a court."
He said Maryland and Ohio both faced lawsuits from disability rights groups over their voting laws, which were similar to West Virginia's. In both cases, disability rights advocates won.
Sen. Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, noted that many West Virginians don't have internet service. Sarah Canterbury, legal counsel for the committee, said that was not addressed in the bill but may need to be considered in the future.
She commented that it may be an option for them to vote using public internet.
Those with disabilities due to mental impairment would not be eligible for electronic absentee voting.
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