A.J. Devies, president of the Handicapped Adults of Volusia County (HAVOC), today made an impassioned plea to reporters, Congressional staffers, and voting reform advocates to support HR 550 as a way to ensure fair and equal treatment of voters with disabilities. "Disabled voters have been disenfranchised for years," noted Devies, and under the Help America Vote Act, states and counties have been allowed to purchase "accessible" touchscreen voting equipment that actually harms disabled voters.
Polling places in this country, said Devies, are increasingly being designed in a "separate but unequal" manner, permitting counties to use (for example) paper-based optical scan systems for the majority of voters but leaving disabled voters to use paperless electronic systems. The effect, said Devies, is twofold. Not only are disabled voters' ballots frequently not cast in a form that can be readily audited, the privacy of disabled voters is jeopardized when the ballots of disabled voters are collected on a system that is separate from equipment that collects ballots from the rest of the voting population.
Disabled voters should enjoy the same protections as other voters, said Devies, and HR 550 is designed to do away with that two-tiered system that has developed under HAVA.
EFF represented HAVOC in a 2005 lawsuit brought by the National Federation of the Blind against Volusia County, Florida, that sought to force the County to purchase paperless touchscreen voting machines. EFF filed an amicus brief on behalf of HAVOC and in support of the County, arguing that the County should be permitted purchase paper-based accessible voting systems like the Automark. The Court eventually ruled in favor of the County, although the state of Florida refused to certify the Automark, thus far preventing all Florida counties from being able to adopt that technology.
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