Landmark Settlement Reached to Ensure Alameda County Voters Who Are Blind Will Be Able to Cast Secret Ballots on Election Day
Berkeley, CA – May 27, 2015 – Alameda County and Plaintiffs California Council of the Blind (CCB) and five individuals who are blind announced a landmark settlement agreement that contains detailed steps that the County will take on Election Day to ensure that voters who are blind and have low-vision will be able to cast a secret ballot.
Jeff Thom, President of CCB, said, “The right to cast a secret ballot is one of the most sacred and important rights we have as American citizens. This settlement greatly enhances the ability of Alameda County voters who are blind or have low vision to exercise their right to vote privately and independently.”
Plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a non-profit legal center with offices in California and New York City, specializing in promoting the civil rights of persons with disabilities. Plaintiffs filed the action on July 25, 2013 after Alameda County voters who are blind were unable to vote using the audio and tactile features of the County’s accessible voting machines during the November 2012 General Election. As a result of the malfunctioning machines, voters were forced to dictate their votes to others instead of voting privately and independently alongside their non-disabled neighbors.
Under the settlement, which has been approved by the County Board of Supervisors, the County will implement modified policies and procedures relating to accessible voting machines, which include:
- Testing the functionality of the audio feature of accessible voting machines before every Election;
- Comprehensive hands-on training of poll workers regarding set up of accessible voting machines and troubleshooting procedures;
- A dedicated equipment technical hotline that will concentrate solely on equipment issues, including accessible voting machines;
- Revised policies and procedures for deploying replacement accessible voting machines; and
- Creation of a Task Force consisting of registered voters who are blind and a voting accessibility expert to review and make recommendations regarding the County’s training and materials relating to accessible voting machines.
Christine Chuang, DRA Senior Staff Attorney commented: “This settlement will ensure that voters who are blind have the same type of voter experience as sighted voters have had for decades. This settlement can serve as a model for counties across the country in ensuring the right to a secret ballot for voters who are blind.”
About Disability Rights Advocates
With offices in New York and California, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is one of the leading nonprofit disability rights legal centers in the nation. In the organization’s 20+ year history, DRA has taken on more than 400 cases and won almost all—achieving dramatic improvements for people with disabilities seeking health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing, including a recent successful challenge to the widespread inaccessibility of poll sites throughout New York City. dralegal.org.
Christine Chuang, DRA Attorney