HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — The June Primary is approaching fast and absentee voting is already underway. The Virginia Department of Elections wants to make sure every voter, including those with disabilities, can cast their ballot.
The department held an expo for voters with disabilities on Tuesday at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center to give people a hands-on look at resources available to them at the polls. It’s the first time the department has organized an event like this.
Jessica Povrik is a Direct Support Professional at Dominion Wavier Services. She brought a group down from Fredericksburg to check it out.
“We wanted to bring all of our individuals out to kind of see [and] teach them what it’s all about to vote and to give them guidance to do it,” Povrik said.
Sativa Newton has never voted before and was excited to learn how. One of the vendors who sells polling machines to Virginia localities showed her how to use it.
“I like the way the guy taught me on how to do the screen,” she explained.
Elections officials say any person, regardless of their disability status, has the right to register to vote. A person with cognitive disabilities can be eligible if they are not adjudicated mentally incapacitated by a court. Individuals that are can have their voting rights restored, according to the Deputy Commissioner of Elections Jessica Bowman.
Because of state and federal law, each polling location in Virginia is required to have a voting machine accessible to people with disabilities. The registrar’s office is responsible to purchase one. The companies they can buy one from are pre-approved by the state.
“We also have audio ballots, a lot of people are not aware of that. So you can actually hear the ballot and fill it out that way,” Bowman said.
There’s also curbside voting available for people with physical limitations or might not be able to stand in long lines. People 65 and older can also vote curbside.
If a voter needs assistance, they can bring in someone to help them fill out the ballot.
Absentee voting has already started and people can request absentee ballots online, which can be mailed in. People can also vote in person absentee.
For voters like Newton as well as her advocates, having the support at the polls means everything.
“Now I’ll be able to,” Newton grinned.
“I think a lot of them doubt themselves, but they have a say just like everyone else does,” Povirk said.
The June Primary is Tuesday, June 11. You have to be registered to vote by May 20.