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Privacy, fraud and access to the right to vote
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Feb. 17, 2004 -- In early January, the American Association of People with Disabilities announced that Washington, DC had become one of the first jurisdictions to meet the 2002 Help America Vote Act requirement "for one accessible touchscreen voting unit in every polling place." (Read more at

A week later, U.S. District Judge Wayne Alley ruled that counties must comply not only with HAVA "but also the more stringent Americans with Disabilities Act when holding elections," and ordered Florida's Duval County (Jacksonville) to provide accessible voting machines by the Aug. 31 primary. The ruling came in a lawsuit against the county and the FL State Division of Elections filed by AAPD; the suit said Florida was required to put in the accessible machines under the ADA when it upgraded from a punch-card to an optical-scan system. A story in the Jan. 17 Tallahassee Democrat reported that Florida's supervisors of elections planned to appeal, insisting that they could not get ready in time. (Read more about the ruling.)

Such delays are not simply because of the slow pace of election officials. Just when you thought it might be safe to think the right to voting privacy was secured by means of new computerized voting machines, fears of the technology's openness to fraud have slowed the process.

Shortly after last fall's election, California Sec. of State Kevin Shelly ordered that all voting machines by mid-2006 offer the printout known as the "voter-verifiable paper trail." The move, advocates said, would delay touchstone voting. "Touchscreens represent the only real hope to bring millions of previously disenfranchised voters to the polls, especially those with disabilities, language and reading difficulties," Eve Hill, director of the Western Law Center for Disability Rights, told Oakland Tribune reporter Ian Hoffman ( "Paper trail for e-votes mandated" Nov. 22). Yet TrueMajority, a progressive get-out-the-vote group, seemingly unaware of disability voting access issues, has launched a campaign to get state election officials to hold off buying computerized voting machines "until we know they are safe and have a way to run reliable recounts." Last fall, says the group, its members sent 63,000 faxes to members of Congress calling for action to delay touchscreen voting (learn more at

Our last look at voting issues was on Election Day. Read our Nov. 4 E-Letter, "Voting progress for people with disabilities."

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