On March 7, 2021, the White House released an Executive Order (EO) on Promoting Access to Voting. According to the EO, the purpose is to “to protect and promote the exercise of the right to vote, eliminate discrimination and other barriers to voting, and expand access to voter registration and accurate election information” and “to ensure that registering to vote and the act of voting be made simple and easy for all those eligible to do so.”
Section 7 of the EO states “Ensuring Equal Access for Voters with Disabilities. Within 270 days of the date of this order, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within the Department of Commerce shall evaluate the steps needed to ensure that the online Federal Voter Registration Form is accessible to people with disabilities. During that period, NIST, in consultation with the Department of Justice, the Election Assistance Commission, and other agencies, as appropriate, shall also analyze barriers to private and independent voting for people with disabilities, including access to voter registration, voting technology, voting by mail, polling locations, and poll worker training. By the end of the 270-day period, NIST shall publish recommendations regarding both the Federal Voter Registration Form and the other barriers it has identified.”
Given the December 2nd, 2021 completion date, NIST is rapidly taking steps to engage with other agencies, advocacy groups, election officials, researchers, and voting system developers. NIST is having conversations with representative(s) from these groups to talk about barriers they’ve encountered, possible recommendations to overcome those barriers, and their visions of future advancements for increasing access to voting for people with disabilities.
A Request for Information has been posted in the Federal Register. Interested parties can submit information directly on https://www.regulations.gov/ using "NIST-2021-0003" in the search box or by emailing pva-eo [at] list.nist.gov. In August, NIST will publish draft recommendations for public comment. Details regarding how to submit comments during the public comment will accompany the announcement.
If you’re interested in discussing Section 7 of the Executive Order and experiences or specific barriers your organization or jurisdiction has faced, please send us an email (pva-eo [at] list.nist.gov) or communicate with us through the RFI. Later this summer, check back to read the draft report and provide public comment.