State board offers new service for those with reduced vision

Abi Pepin, Senior Political Correspondent

Voters who are blind or have low vision can now vote using an accessible absentee ballot online. 

Voters can request, receive and return their accessible ballot on a website compatible with screen readers.

The state board added the portal last month after the federal court required the state board to offer online voting for voters who are blind or have low vision.

“The portal makes it easy for voters who are visually impaired to privately and independently mark their ballots,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the state board of elections.

Voters with limited vision can request an accessible absentee ballot through the Absentee Ballot Online Request Portal before Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. If the voter requested a mailed absentee ballot but has not returned it, they can request a new accessible ballot.

After a request is submitted, it can take several days to process and for the data to be sent to the portal that generates the ballot. After the portal generates the ballot, the voter can access it.

A witness is required for absentee voting and is a part of the online ballot process.

Voters can vote and return their absentee ballot online by Nov. 3 at 5 p.m.

The state board created a webpage for more information about accessible absentee voting.

If a person with low vision is not registered to vote, they may not complete an accessible absentee ballot online. However, they can register and vote in person during early voting.

In Watauga County, the six early voting sites are open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. during the week. Early voting ends on Oct.  31. 

Here are the voting sites in Watauga County:

  • App State – Plemmons Student Union – Blue Ridge Ballroom
  • Blowing Rock Town Hall
  • Deep Gap Fire Department
  • High Country Vacation Homes (Foscoe)
  • Western Watauga Community Center
  • Watauga County Administration Building, Commissioners’ Board Room