Federal Judge Sides With Ban On Accessible Voting Machines
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 8, 2004
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA--Disability rights groups said that they would appeal a federal judge's decision this week which supported a California elections official's ban on electronic voting systems.
U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ruled late Tuesday that California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley was reasonable on April 30 when he decertified Diebold touch-screen voting systems in Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Orange counties.
Shelley had claimed that the electronic systems were not reliable, in part because they did not provide a paper record of votes. The systems had been criticized also for not being tamper-proof, thus allowing computer hackers to change election results.
The touch-screen systems have been favored by many voters with disabilities which affect mobility, reading, hearing and vision, because the systems have features that allow them to independently cast a private ballot. Federal law requires polling sites to have accessible voting systems in place by 2006.
Disability advocates joined the counties in suing Shelley in May, claiming his action violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the 2002 Help America Vote Act, along with state election laws.
Judge Cooper disagreed, stating that the laws do not require "accommodation that would enable disabled persons to vote in a manner that is comparable in every way with the voting rights enjoyed by persons without disabilities."
"The interest of the Secretary of State in fulfilling his statutory duties and the public interest in accurate, verifiable vote counts outweigh the plaintiff's interest in an unassisted, private vote," she concluded.
Jim Dickson, vice president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, told the Oakland Tribune that the new federal ruling in California, if unchallenged, suggests that states and counties can legally make voting systems less accessible.
"The judge is wrong and we're going to appeal," said Dickson, who is blind.
"Judge backs state's e-vote paper backup" (Oakland Tribune)