Department of Elections holds first expo for voters with disabilities

(NBC12)

The Virginia Department of Elections held its first “Voters With Disabilities Engagement Expo” this week to showcase resources for people who need assistance voting.

The event is one way to accomplish Gov. Ralph Northam’s goal of expanding voting access, said Deputy Commissioner Jessica Bowman.

“It’s important that every Virginian that’s eligible to vote can vote,” she said.

Bowman got the idea for the expo from the Virginia Beach registrar’s office, which held a similar event last summer during National Disability Voter Registration Week in July. Bowman said she wanted to hold the state event before the June primaries.

More than 200 people attended the expo in Henrico County, which featured modified machines from vendors who are approved to provide equipment for elections in the state. It included a machine that allows people to vote by sound as well as machines that limit how much mobility a voter needs to cast their vote.

Vendors allowed attendees to use the machines to cast mock ballots and receive “I voted” stickers. Groups that provide services to people disabilities came from as far as Hampton and Fredericksburg for the event.

In addition to the machines, the Department of Election provided information on how to register to vote, get an absentee ballot and become a poll worker during elections.

There’s no way to know how many voters in the state might have a disability, since the state doesn’t collect that information when people register to vote, Bowman said.