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Florida Has Four Months To Ensure Accessible Voting, Judge Rules
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 16, 2004

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA--The city of Jacksonville and the State of Florida have four months to certify voting equipment that is accessible to voters with disabilities and have it ready for the August primary, a federal judge ordered Wednesday.

Judge Wayne Alley of U.S. Federal Court of Central Florida said that Florida and the city of Jacksonville were violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by not providing voting machines that people who are blind, do not read, or have limited mobility could use without assistance.

The decision directly affects Duval County, but could likely affect dozens of other Florida counties as well. According to the Associated Press, only 15 Florida counties have touchscreen voting systems, which contain an audio system to allow blind voters to cast a private ballot. Many counties purchased new systems -- mostly optical scan machines -- after the controversial 2000 presidential election recount. Optical scan machines, however, require voters to read the ballot and use a pencil or pen to fill in small ovals.

"Other counties in the exact same situation and same equipment would be silly to not go ahead and be accessible by August," said Jim Dickson, vice president of governmental affairs for the American Association for People with Disabilities, which pushed for the change.

"We'll sue them if they don't."

Alley gave parties on both sides 10 days to reply to his tentative ruling, but indicated he would make it permanent.

Dick Carlberg, Duval County's assistant elections supervisor, said his county plans to buy touchscreen machines manufactured by Diebold Election Systems once the state certifies them.

Federal law requires all precincts to have accessible voting methods by 2006.


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