American Council of the Blind of Indiana v. Indiana Election Commission

Scroll to case documents Date Filed: 12/03/2020 Status:

In a lawsuit filed December 2020 in federal district court in the Southern District of Indiana, plaintiffs Kristin Fleschner, Rita Kersh, and Michael Lauf, joined by Indiana Disability Rights and the American Council of the Blind of Indiana, assert that the Indiana Election Commission and the Secretary of State are discriminating against voters who are blind or have low vision by not offering the necessary accommodations that these voters need to vote privately and independently when using the absentee vote-by-mail program. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Disability Rights Advocates and Indiana Disability Rights.

In March 2022, the Honorable Jane Magnus-Stinson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana found that Indiana’s absentee voting procedures discriminate against voters with print disabilities. In her order, Judge Magnus-Stinson struck down Indiana’s rule that absentee voters with print disabilities may only vote by appointment with a “traveling board” of elections officials for the May 2022 election. In September 2022, Judge Magnus-Stinson  struck down Indiana’s rule again for the November 2022 general election.

The traveling board rule was the most restrictive in the country for voters with disabilities and had resulted in at least one voter being unable to cast a ballot in the November 2020 Presidential Election because a traveling board never came to her home to help her vote. DRA and IDR previously won a preliminary injunction on behalf of their clients in March 2022 which temporarily made the use of the traveling board optional rather than mandatory for the May 2022 primary elections. Now, with this most recent ruling, the same relief will apply to the November 2022 general elections, so voters with print disabilities have the freedom to choose the person of their choice to assist them in marking their paper absentee ballot.

The ability to vote privately and independently is a fundamental right and an essential component of democracy in the United States. “This case involves the values at the core of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act: equal treatment, equal access, and independence for individuals with disabilities,” Judge Magnus-Stinson held, and “the Traveling Board scheme significantly interferes with a blind or print disabled person’s ability to vote privately and independently.” Defendants Indiana Secretary of State, Indiana Election Division, and Indiana Election Commission must now notify county election boards that they must accept absentee ballots marked by blind voters with the assistant of their choice.

Plaintiffs are seeking only injunctive relief, not monetary damages, and are represented by attorneys from Indiana Disability Rights and Disability Rights Advocates.

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