Florida Election Access Suit Moves Forward
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 21, 2002
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA--Until voting equipment at local polling places is fully accessible to voters with disabilities, three Duval County residents say they will stand by a lawsuit they filed against elections officials.
Daniel O'Connor, Kent Bell and Beth Bowen are blind voters who sued state and city officials, including Supervisor of Elections John Stafford. They claim Duval County violated the Americans with Disabilities Act last year when it purchased new optical scan voting machines that cannot be used by voters who are blind or do not read or who do not use their hands.
The three want all polling locations to have machines that would read ballots out loud and that would allow voters to select candidates without using their hands.
Earlier this fall, President George W. Bush signed legislation that calls for millions of federal dollars to be given to states to make sure that they have voting procedures and polling places that are accessible to people with disabilities. A Florida law also requires voting machines to be accessible by the 2004 elections.
But neither the state nor the federal government has set aside the money needed to enact these laws.
The three say they want to keep up the pressure to make sure election officials stand by their word and follow the new laws.
Troubles with the 2000 general election prompted election officials across the country to quickly purchase new voting equipment. Unfortunately, much of that equipment is not accessible to voters with certain disabilities. More suits are expected over the next year, according to the Jacksonville Times-Union.
"The Americans with Disabilities Act is very clear that at the point where an entity of government is buying a new anything, it must be accessible," said Jim Dixon, vice president for government affairs at the American Association of People with Disabilities. "Jacksonville buying an inaccessible voting system is the same thing as putting up a new county building and only having stairs."