Accessible Voting: California Recall Election September 14, 2021

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A diverse group of animated people approach baqllot boxes with "x''s" and "Checkmarks" in speech bubbles above their heads. The CFILC, Do network and Where it's AT logo are situated below the image. Text reads: Accessible Voting: California Recall Election September 14, 2021

The upcoming California State Gubernatorial Recall Election is a special election to decide: Should the Governor of the State of California, Gavin Newsom, be recalled? If so, who should replace him? Because this is an off-cycle special election, most ballots will simply have the recall question and a list of 46 candidates. (Some counties may also choose to add additional local contests, however.) 

And although this is a very different type of election, one thing remains constant: Voting must be an accessible process for people with disabilities. All of the technical rules for voting locations (find a location here) still apply — all in-person voting locations are required to have accessible voting machines and staff trained to assist voters with the process. 

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, voting by mail is now more accessible. The law now requires that all registered voters (prior to August 30, 2021) receive a ballot by mail. If a person has a disability that makes marking a ballot independently challenging, there is the Remote Accessible Vote by Mail (RAVBM, or in some counties, simply Accessible Vote by Mail) system. 

This system allows a voter to use an Internet-connected computer to mark ballot selections, then print those selections and return them in the envelope, as they would the ballot originally included in the envelope. This allows the voter to use their own assistive technology and devices. It offers a greater degree of independence to many voters, who might be unable to mark a ballot without the use of assistive technology. 

The first step in accessing the system is to contact your County Elections Office. You can find your office by using this link, or call the Secretary of State’s voter hotline at 1-800-345-8683 (English) 1-800-232-8682 (Spanish), and other languages are available at this link

It’s very important to know that RAVBM is not Internet voting — it is simply printing your ballot selections, then signing the envelope and returning the ballot either by mail, in person at a voting location or in a drop box (find a location here). All ballots must be postmarked by September 14, 2021. 

And because voting by mail can be a different experience for those who are used to voting in person, it’s also helpful to know that you can track your ballot. Here’s a link to California’s “Where’s My Ballot” system. Even if you do vote in person, this system will help you stay informed on when your vote was counted by your County Election Office. 

Although this election is very different than a standard election, we are truly at a time in California where there are more options for voters with disabilities than ever. I personally used the Remote Accessible Vote by Mail in 2020, and while I enjoy voting in person, I truly appreciated that this system gave me an alternative option that was no less independent during the pandemic. Technology, along with our state’s commitment to voting accessibility, has truly brought about powerful options for empowering people with disabilities to participate in voting. I’ve chosen to use RAVBM again for the 2021 Recall Election. 

I hope you’ll share your voting story with us! Feel free to email us at [email protected] with the subject: How I Accessed the 2021 Recall Election. 

Join the DOnetwork on upcoming Voting Access and Advocacy! 
Thursday, September 9, 2021 at 2 PM-3 PM Pacific Time 
Register for the “Let’s Talk Recall” event by following this link! 

#CripTheVote 2021 California Gubernatorial Recall Election Twitter Chat 
Monday, September 13, 2021 at 2 PM Pacific Time
Follow @_CFILC and @DOnetworkorg on Twitter to participate! 

Additional resources for voters with disabilities: 

  • Disability Rights California also maintains a hotline that can be used by people with disabilities experiencing any difficulty or barriers to voting: 1-888-569-7955 (voice) or 1-800-719-5798