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My Rationale For Filing An ADA Complaint Against the State of Florida PDF  | Print |  Email
By A. J. Devies, President, (Handicapped Adults of Volusia County)   
April 04, 2006

Touch-screen voting machines are not accessible to the majority of people with disabilities.


Copy of Devies' ADA Complaint Against The State of Florida

The 2000 Census lists 3.6% of the population as "sensory impaired," which is defined as a degree of loss of sight or hearing. The overall disabled population over age 16 but less than age 65 comprises 20 to 25% of the population, depending on the year for which the data was collected.

Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) devices, otherwise known as a touch screen machines, don't fully accommodate the sight-impaired portion of the 3.6% of sensory-impaired people because the Voter Access Card (VAC) required to activate the DRE voting process requires a specific orientation of the VAC when it is inserted into the DRE. There are no markings on the VAC to help these people orient it properly, so someone will need to assist them.

The National Federation of the Blind and the American Association for People with Disabilities (NFB and AAPD respectively) insist that to vote privately and independently (HAVA 301(a)(1)(A)(i)) a disabled person must be able to enter the polling place and vote without any assistance from anyone. The NFB and AAPD actively promote DRE's. It is obvious these so- called "disability experts" have not thought through the entire process.

There are similar issues with the handling of the VAC for people with mobility or dexterity impairments.  NFB and AAPD (among others) have said that people with dexterity impairments can't use a paper ballot marking device because they are not capable of inserting the ballot into the device. That is a grossly distorted assumption that the roughly 16 to 20% of people with disabilities other than sensory impairments are ALL dexterity impaired. People with "silent" disabilities such as mental illness, seizure disorders, brain injuries, cognitive impairments, etc., are for the most part able to handle a paper ballot unassisted. Furthermore, if a person with a dexterity impairment cannot handle a large object such as a paper ballot, how can they be expected to deal with the VAC?

There is also the "separate but not quite equal" problem in jurisdictions which use PBOS (Paper Ballot/Optical Scan) systems for non-disabled voters and DRE's for disabled voters.  The PBOS people have the advantage of a paper ballot. Disabled voters don't. If there is only one disabled voter who uses a DRE in a given precinct, the privacy of that individual's vote is violated.

I have filed an ADA Title II complaint against Florida Secretary of State, Sue Cobb, and Division of Elections’ Bureau of Voting System Certification (BVSC) Manager, David Drury, for failing to certify a handicapped-accessible paper ballot voting/marking device in a timely manner (F.S. 101.015(7).)

There are two exceptionally accessible ballot-marking devices available: AutoMARK and Vote-PAD.  AutoMARK has been in Florida’s certification testing process for 14 months.  The excuses BVSC has supplied for not certifying it have been inexcusably weak and insulting.

Vote-PAD has chosen not to seek Florida certification because of the exorbitant cost of ITA testing ($100K+). Vote-PAD is not required to obtain federal certification because it is an assistive device, not a voting system. Unfortunately, Florida's interpretation of voting system includes the Vote-PAD because the ballots marked with the assistance of a Vote-PAD are counted on an optical scanner, making it part of a "voting system."

I feel it is my responsibility to stand against those organizations and governmental entities who would deny not just disabled people, but ALL people, the right to a fair, secure, transparent, accountable, re-countable and accessible method of voting in the State of Florida.

It is my hope that every disabled person who feels his or her right to an accessible method of voting on a paper ballot will join in filing their own ADA complaint. It is the right thing to do, and now is the time to do it.
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