Duval County Must Provide Accessible Voting Machines, Judge
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 30, 2004
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA--A federal judge ruled Friday that Duval County election officials are violating the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing accessible voting machines.
In a decision that was made public Monday, U.S. District Judge Wayne Alley ordered the county to equip 20 percent of its voting precincts with touch-screen machines in time for the August 2004 primary election.
Touch-screen machines allow voters with limited mobility to mark selections by touching large buttons. They are also equipped with voice instructions to help voters that are blind or cannot read. Optical scan systems, however, require voters to fill in small ovals on paper ballots.
Judge Alley pointed out that Jacksonville voters with disabilities have had an equal opportunity to vote, but not an independent one. By having to rely on others to make their selections, voters who are blind or cannot read have not been able to exercise their right to cast a secret ballot.
"To me, it's what I think our country's all about," Dan O'Connor, who has been legally blind for more than a decade, told WJXT-TV.
"The major obstacle of the current system for me is that I have to rely on someone else."
County elections officials have until this Friday to decide whether they will appeal Alley's decision.
In various news reports, officials said that purchasing the estimated 60 touch-screen machines would cost between $180,000 and $250,000, which could present a hardship to the county. Another problem is that the state has not yet certified touch-screen machines that are compatible with the Diebold optical scan system the county currently uses. The new machines will not likely be certified until May at the earliest.