A national advocacy group for visually impaired people and three Ohio voters are suing Secretary of State Jon Husted, claiming some services provided by Husted’s office are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The complaint, filed Monday in federal district court in Columbus, alleges the state’s voter services website is inaccessible to visually impaired voters and the state’s system of paper-only absentee ballots infringes on their right to vote. Visually impaired people use screen access software that reads websites aloud or displays the text on a Braille device. The secretary of state’s website, which allows voters to update their registration information and request absentee ballots, is incompatible with screen access software, according to the complaint. Blind voters must then complete forms on paper, which they cannot do without human assistance.
The National Federation of the Blind and three Ohio voters who filed the suit want Husted to make his website ADA compliant before Ohio’s March 2016 primary election.
A Husted spokesman said the secretary is aware of issues with the website and the office plans to make it more accessible before the March primary.
Absentee ballots are only available in paper form that blind voters cannot complete without help, which the complaint says denies voters’ right to cast a ballot privately and independently as required by the ADA. The complaint noted that if visually impaired voters were emailed absentee ballots, as are military and overseas voters, they could complete the ballot using screen access software and print it out.