Alexandria, VA, April 21, 2020 - The American Council of the Blind, along with its New York affiliate and other disability advocacy organizations, has brought a complaint before the U.S. Department of Justice, Disability Rights Section. The complaint highlights the discrimination brought about by absentee voting. The right to vote via absentee ballot has long been a goal of the blind community, but has been amplified in light of the coronavirus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (NY) has taken tremendous steps to fight the virus and provide for his state during the crisis. But among his numerous actions, he implemented Executive Order 202.15, which means that state residents must mark an absentee ballot on paper. This prevents New York residents who are blind from voting privately and independently.
"An alternative to voting in person is necessary during this COVID-19 crisis; people who are blind should not have to be exposed to the virus unnecessarily by voting in person. Just as all other New York residents have the right to vote via absentee ballot, the state must provide an accessible voting method that blind residents can use remotely," states ACB president Dan Spoone.
"Technology exists that will enable blind and visually impaired Americans to vote independently via online ballot-marking devices. With the advent of workable technology, states have no excuse when arguing the difficulty of providing accessible absentee voting systems," notes Karen Blachowicz, president of ACB of New York.
"The Washington Lawyers' Committee is proud to represent ACB and the complainants in this matter. While we applaud Gov. Cuomo's decision to protect voters from COVID-19, he must do so in a way that provides equal access for voters with disabilities. There are safe, effective methods for voters with disabilities to cast a private, independent absentee ballot, and we urge the Department of Justice to instruct Gov. Cuomo and the New York Board of Elections that they must implement reasonable accommodations consistent with the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for the primary election in June," stated Jonathan Smith, Executive Director, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
The American Council of the Blind is a national grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired. With 70 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. Learn more by visiting www.acb.org.