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Promise of Accessible Voting for Voters with Disabilities Still Unfulfilled, New Report Finds PDF  | Print |  Email
Accessibilty Issues
By Demos and VoterAction   
February 14, 2007
Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines, once considered essential to ensuring private and independent voting booth access for voters with disabilities, often do not work as promised, according to a new report published today. Authored by access technology expert Noel Runyan and published by election reform groups Demos and Voter Action, "Improving Access to Voting: A Report on the Technology for Accessible Voting Systems" shows that, due to inadequate or malfunctioning voting machines, voters with disabilities are frequently forced to ask for assistance or compromise the privacy of their vote" severe violations of federal disability accommodation requirements.

The report details significant difficulties for voters with disabilities, including: the lack of a controllable interface for those who are unable to use touch screens or tactile key inputs; inadequate audio access features for people with visual or cognitive impairments, with dyslexia, or with severe motor-impairments; and lack of privacy curtains to prevent others from reading the voters' selections on their visual displays.

"I originally had high hopes for the new voting machines" said Noel Runyan, the author of the report.  Runyan, who is blind, is a professional electrical engineer who has spent much of his career developing access technologies for people with visual impairments. "Even with my technical background and the help of poll workers, I could not get the Sequoia Edge II DRE to work. I have since tested most of the available voting systems at conferences and at the National Federation of the Blind's accessible voting systems lab, and my fears have been confirmed: Most of the DREs deployed were not designed with real disability access in mind."

Polling Sites Often Neglect Disability, Language Minority Access Requirements PDF  | Print |  Email
Accessibilty Issues
By Demos Media Release   
October 21, 2006

Millions Of Voting Age Americans Covered By 'Ballot Access' Laws Ill-Served By Election Administration


Download the Ballot Access Briefing Paper


Millions of disabled and language-minority American citizens face impediments to voting because many states do not meet federal ballot and polling place access requirements, according to a new briefing paper by Demos, a national, non-partisan public policy and research center.


The Ballot Access briefing paper, which is published this week as part of Demos' Challenges to Fair Elections briefing paper series, shows that states across the U.S. are failing to live up to the promise of landmark "ballot access" legislation, such as section 203 of the Voting Rights Act and provisions of the Help America Vote Act, which require polling sites to accommodate U.S. citizens with disabilities and those who may have limited proficiency in English.


"Vast numbers of eligible voters depend on enforcement of these laws to protect their right to vote," said Brenda Wright, managing attorney of the National Voting Rights Institute, a partner of Demos. "Yet even as we approach the third major election of the 21st century, it is clear that we still have a long way to go in assuring that all citizens have fair ballot access."

New Voters With Disabilities Suit in California PDF  | Print |  Email
Accessibilty Issues
By Joseph Hall, University of California, Berkeley   
August 03, 2006

This article was posted on Joesph Hall's Not Quite A Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author. 


As Dan Tokaji and Cindy Cohn point out, a lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by advocates of people of disabilities against the Secretary of State in California and seven counties in California (See " Disability Rights Suit Over California Voting Equipment" and "Voting Security Attacked In Court Again"). Here is a searchable (OCR'd) version of that complaint.

Dan does a great job of summarizing the suit so I'll try not to be redundant with what he said. I do want to point out a few things that I found interesting.


First, it is interesting to note which counties are not named as defendants in the suit. A quick glance at the Secretary of State's list of voting systems used by each county in California's recent primary election shows that there are counties that meet the exact criteria of some of the defendants but that were not named. None of the twenty counties using the Sequoia AVC Edge DRE with VVPAT or the four counties using the Hart eSlate DRE with VVPAT were included despite the fact that neither of these systems read the contents of the VVPAT record to voters with visual disabilities. The suit names only three out of the eleven counties that used the AutoMARK for HAVA compliance. It also only names Alameda county as having violated HAVA by using the VVPAT-enabled version of the DESI AccuVote-TSx when there are ten other counties that used the same model (including the largest, Los Angeles County, where presumably many voters with visual and manual disabilities reside). The plaintiffs fault Yolo county for not having an accessible system at all, which Dan notes is a serious issue of HAVA non-compliance.1 However, the suit also claims in paragraph 13 that six other counties were in the same situation but does not name these counties as defendants (and the suit neglects to mention Nevada county which also had to rely on HAVA-non-compliant optical scanners). I'm unsure as to why the plaintiffs chose this particular set of defendants and didn't simply list every single county in California as violating their reading of the accessibility provisions of HAVA.


A second issue that Dan mentions concerns whether there exists a private right of action under HAVA. If the court finds that there is no private right of action, four out of the five claims -- the HAVA-specific ones -- will be moot. Dan points out that the 6th Circuit has ruled in Sandusky County Democratic Party v. Blackwell that there is no such private right of action under section 302 of HAVA. However, the accessibility provisions are from section 301 of HAVA, which broadly requires states to meet a minimum set of standards for voting technologies used in federal elections.

Voting Security Attacked In Court Again PDF  | Print |  Email
Accessibilty Issues
By Cindy Cohn, Electronic Frontier Foundation   
August 03, 2006

This article appeared on the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Deep Links Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author.


Here we go again. Despite all of our efforts to dispel the false dichotomy between secure voting and accessible voting, a shrinking but vocal minority of the disability rights community continues to take steps to prevent more secure voting by claiming that it will violate the rights of the disabled. They've now filed a federal lawsuit in San Francisco, called PVA v. McPherson, to try to turn back the clock -- and force Californians back into insecure, inauditable voting systems. This argument was wrong when it was rejected by a federal judge in 2004 and it's still wrong now.


Since 2004, the nation has awakened to the problems with electronic voting machines. We've slowly recognized the need for voting systems that are transparent and that allow for trustworthy and complete audits and recounts. The fact that Las Vegas slot machines are infinitely more secure than our voting systems is now widely known, and the movement to remedy that problem is growing stronger with each botched election. EFF represented the Handicapped Voters of Volusia County (HAVOC) in Florida, filing a brief there to insist that their voting systems have a paper trail. They wanted to make sure their votes were counted as cast too.


Our favorite current solution is the new generation of optical scan systems, led by the AutoMARK, that are broadly accessible to voters with disabilities. Another option is the voter verified paper trail attached to DRE electronic voting systems. The current crop of paper trail machines still has serious problems, and we still have much additional work to do to ensure verified voting, but these systems are still better than DREs with no paper trail at all. Yet the suit filed yesterday would push California back to those insecure, paperless DREs.


EFF and a broad coalition of voting activists will likely participate in the PVA v. McPherson case, as we did in the one in 2004, to point out, once again, that secure, accessible voting can and should be our shared goals.

Touch Screens Are Not The Best Choice For Disabled Voters PDF  | Print |  Email
Accessibilty Issues
By AJ Devies, Handicapped Voters of Volusia County   
August 01, 2006
A key point has been lost in the various arguments for and against touch-screen voting machines. The spirit and intent of the accessible voting law are to allow every disabled person the opportunity to cast his or her privately and independently.1 The key word in the preceding sentence is “every.”  It is not acceptable to accommodate some members of the disabled population and expect the rest of us to live with “business as usual.” That is discrimination, which is not legal.

Accommodating people with different disabilities requires great flexibility in a voting system. What works for and is preferred by certain members of the blind and visually impaired community2 does not accommodate people with mobility or motor impairments.3 That is one specific shortcoming with touch screen machines. People with limited use of their hands and arms may not be able to use the touch screen machines. People with spinal cord injuries or similar disorders may require binary devices such as such as “sip-and-puff”. (Other binary devices include foot pedals, joy-sticks and gel pads.)

A  recent analysis of one vendor’s touch screen machine has proven that that touch screen machine contains illegal programming code and high-level security risks.4

The gold-standard of assistive ballot marking machines5 provides audio and/or visual methods to accommodate people with visual or cognitive impairments, binary devices for motor or mobility impairments, touch screen with color contrast and magnification for those who require such accommodation, large, tactile keys on a keypad, and produces a paper ballot just like the paper ballot used by people without disabilities. Visually impaired voters can re-insert their paper ballot into the assistive ballot marking device (in any orientation) and have their ballot read back to them in lieu of the visual check done by non-visually impaired voters.

The majority of touch screen machines which produce a voter-verifiable paper record either print the record on a toilet-paper-like roll which remains inside the touch screen machine and is viewable through a small window, or prints an ATM-like receipt which is ejected or torn from the touch screen machine’s printer. How can people with visual impairments verify their votes on these touch screen machines?
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