2023 Resolutions – Helena, MT

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These resolutions were adopted by the National Federation of the Blind of Montana Treasure State convention on Saturday, October 7, 2023.

Resolution 2023-01 Regarding The Use of the Electronic Ballot Return System by blind Voters in Montana

WHEREAS The ability to cast a secret ballot privately, independently, and securely is a cornerstone of our democracy; and

WHEREAS The Voting rights Act of 1965, the Americans with Disabilities Act OF 1990, (ADA), and many other CIVIL rights laws affirm that voters with disabilities should have the same opportunities to exercise their right to vote as do voters without disabilities; and

WHEREAS Montana online voting cannot be used by the blind without sighted assistance, since it requires the voter to print out, sign, date, fold, and mail the ballot to the county elections office; and

WHEREAS Many blind voters and disability rights groups have sued states over the inability to return ballots electronically; and

WHEREAS Partly as a result of these lawsuits, blind voters in 13 states are now able to return their ballots electronically; and

WHEREAS More than half the states in the U.S. allow federal military and overseas voters to return their ballots electronically via email, fax, or a secure online portal; and

WHEREAS, Federal military and overseas voters have the ability to return ballots electronically, but the blind do not: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Montana in convention assembled this seventh day of October, 2023, in the city of Helena, Montana, that this organization call upon Montana state government to require that the same electronic ballot return option used by federal military and overseas voters be made available to blind Montana voters, as is required by federal law.

Resolution 2023-02 Regarding whether the Montana blind vending program should be administered by a stand-alone nominee agency or in house

Whereas The organized blind of Montana have always advocated for the Blind Vending Program to be administered by a nominee agency, since a stand-alone nonprofit organization centers the locus of control with the blind entrepreneurs it represents, and assures them a collective statewide voice, regardless of geographic location or vending facility type; and

WHEREAS The in-house model puts too much control in the hands of state government and too little in the hands of blind vendors; and

WHEREAS The state dropped the Blind Vending Program in the late 1980s, the legislature restored it under a nominee agency in the 1990s, and since then for nearly 25 years it has been successfully administered by Montana Business Enterprises, Inc.; and

WHEREAS In July, 2023, the Blind and Low Vision Services Bureau unexpectedly terminated its contract with Montana Business Enterprises, Inc., effective September 30, 2023, without informing or consulting the Blind Vendors Committee or the National Federation of the Blind of Montana, thereby violating the principle “nothing about us without us”; and

WHEREAS The Blind and Low Vision Services Bureau has failed to communicate to us what they think is wrong with the current nominee system of administration, and why they think an in-house model would be an improvement over what we already have; and

WHEREAS By such actions, the Blind and Low Vision Services Bureau and its predecessors have historically shown that they do not need to consider input from blind Montanans, preferring to rely on their own perceptions of what we want, rather than working together with us to improve opportunities for blind entrepreneurs; and

WHEREAS In so doing, the Blind and Low Vision Services Bureau has disregarded both the letter and the spirit of the Montana Blind Vendors Act and the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and

WHEREAS In August the Blind Vendors Committee filed grievances with the state and federal government and called for the continuation of the administration of the Blind Vending Program through a nominee agency, a stand which we have not wavered from for at least forty years; and

WHEREAS the National Federation of the Blind of Montana believes strongly that if the Blind Vending Program is administered in house, that blind vending in Montana will eventually die: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Montana in convention assembled this 7th day of October, 2023, in the city of Helena, Montana, that this organization call upon the Blind and Low Vision Services Bureau to follow state and federal rules and to act inclusively with us to administer the Blind Vending Program under a nominee agency instead of in-house; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that if the program is taken in house, we call upon the Montana legislature to re-establish it under a nominee agency.

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