G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We Don’t Have a Voice Anymore’

“I want to ensure that self-certifying as indefinitely confined is not a de facto workaround to election integrity measures already on the books,” Mr. Stroebel said, adding of the limits on who could return ballots: “Any current practice for an individual who is not engaging in orchestrated mass ballot harvesting should be allowed by our bill. Also, a voter can simply return the ballot by mail.” Another measure in Wisconsin would require anyone under 65 who applied for indefinitely confined status to provide a doctor’s note. Republicans say this — along with a photo ID requirement — would prevent people from claiming the status fraudulently, and have pointed to the Milwaukee and Dane County clerks’ statements early last year that, because of a statewide stay-at-home order, any voter could claim it. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered them to stop, the clerks rescinded that advice. The court later affirmed that individual voters could decide whether they qualified for the status. According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, 80 percent of people who claimed the status last year had ID on file. Disabled voters expressed concern that, beyond the difficulty of finding transportation to appointments, the measure would require doctors to attest to matters outside their scope of practice — and that insurers might refuse to cover office visits to obtain such notes, deeming them medically unnecessary. Denise Jess, the executive director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired, said she worried that her doctor wouldn’t even be willing to make an assessment about her ability to travel to a polling place. Ms. Jess, who is blind, prefers to vote in person because polling places have accessible equipment for visually impaired voters to complete ballots independently. But at some point, she said, it might become impossible for her to travel safely, in which case she would have to find someone she trusts to mark her absentee ballot, and then find a legally acceptable person to return it. Lobbying from disability rights groups has had some impact: A doctor’s note requirement was removed from the Texas legislation, for instance. At the same time, some disabled voters have found it difficult to even express their opposition.

G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We Don’t Have a Voice Anymore’
“I want to ensure that self-certifying as indefinitely confined is not a de facto workaround to election integrity measures already on the books,” Mr. Stroebel said, adding of the limits on who could return ballots: “Any current practice for an individual who is not engaging in orchestrated mass ballot harvesting should be allowed by our bill. Also, a voter can simply return the ballot by mail.” Another measure in Wisconsin would require anyone under 65 who applied for indefinitely confined status to provide a doctor’s note. Republicans say this — along with a photo ID requirement — would prevent people from claiming the status fraudulently, and have pointed to the Milwaukee and Dane County clerks’ statements early last year that, because of a statewide stay-at-home order, any voter could claim it. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered them to stop, the clerks rescinded that advice. The court later affirmed that individual voters could decide whether they qualified for the status. According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, 80 percent of people who claimed the status last year had ID on file. Disabled voters expressed concern that, beyond the difficulty of finding transportation to appointments, the measure would require doctors to attest to matters outside their scope of practice — and that insurers might refuse to cover office visits to obtain such notes, deeming them medically unnecessary. Denise Jess, the executive director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired, said she worried that her doctor wouldn’t even be willing to make an assessment about her ability to travel to a polling place. Ms. Jess, who is blind, prefers to vote in person because polling places have accessible equipment for visually impaired voters to complete ballots independently. But at some point, she said, it might become impossible for her to travel safely, in which case she would have to find someone she trusts to mark her absentee ballot, and then find a legally acceptable person to return it. Lobbying from disability rights groups has had some impact: A doctor’s note requirement was removed from the Texas legislation, for instance. At the same time, some disabled voters have found it difficult to even express their opposition.