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Disabled voters sue CA officials over vote access

March 8, 2004 -- A number of California voters with disabilities, along with state and national disability groups, filed suit today in Los Angeles federal court against California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley and the counties of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and Santa Barbara for violating the rights of voters with disabilities. The suit, filed by the American Association of People With Disabilities, the California Council of the Blind and the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, along with almost a dozen individuals, challenges Shelley's November, 2003 directive requiring touchscreen voting machines to include voter verified paper audit trails, and demands that the counties named in the suit have accessible touchscreen voting machines for voters with disabilities for the November, 2004 election.

The plaintiffs claim violations of their voting rights at last week's state elections and in the upcoming November, 2004 federal elections. According to the suit, Shelley has failed to require accessible voting machines in four of the state's most populous counties (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and Santa Barbara) and has impeded implementation of accessible voting by imposing restrictions on the only accessible federally approved and state certified voting equipment available -- touchscreen, or direct recording electronic (DRE) machines. Plaintiffs say the lack of accessible equipment violates the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The requirement for a "voter-verified paper ballot" will slow down introduction of accessible touchscreen voting machine, the groups allege.

The American Association of People with Disabilities opposes voter-verified paper ballots, saying the process does not substantially address the issue of election fraud; that it violates the accessibility requirements under the Help America Vote Act; that it will raise the costs of local elections. "With the new voting technology, there really is no excuse for imposing these extra burdens on people with disabilities. Federal law makes clear that this is illegal discrimination. It also denies us our fundamental right to vote," says AAPD's Jim Dickson. (Read more about AAPD's opposition to voter-verified paper ballots at the AAPD website.)

For more information on the suit, contact Vince Wetzel of the California Foundation of Independent Living Centers at (916) 325-1690 David Silver of Silver Public Relations at (213) 488-6161.

Read the press statement and bios of the plaintiffs

Read Associated Press story of the suit

On Feb. 20, The U.S. Department of Justice announced the release of new guidance to assist local election officials in ensuring that polling places are accessible to voters with disabilities. Read more from DOJ.

Read "Electronic voting can zap skeptics" concerns," by Don Campbell in the March 1, 2004 USA Today

Read "Privacy, fraud and access to the right to vote" (Feb. 17, 2004 Accessible Society E-Letter)


The following sites contain information that may be of interest. Please bear in mind that the information at these sites is not controlled by the Center for An Accessible society. Links to these sites do not imply that the Center supports either the organizations or the views presented.
The Project on Disability Politics at the University of Arkansas looks at political participation of people with disabilities, voting rights laws affecting people with disabilities and disability in American campaigns and elections.

"Voters with disabilities face discrimination nationwide," A report in the November/December 2000 issue of Ragged Edge magazine

The Trace Research & Development Center's efforts to make electronic voting machines easier to use for the average citizen, our aging population and people with disabilities can be found at

The National Organization on Disability's "Getting Out The Disability Vote" campaign has background and commentary






Expert sources

Voting in America -- commentary

Accessible voting machines

Polling sites remain inaccessible


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