A federal judge ruled Wednesday that blind Ohioans have been denied “meaningful access” to the state’s absentee voting system. However, U.S. District Judge George C. Smith said changes can’t be made prior to the fall election without having to “fundamentally alter Ohio’s voting system as a whole.” Disability Rights Ohio filed a lawsuit in December in federal court alleging Secretary of State Jon Husted discriminated against blind voters by denying them access to a suitable, private absentee voting system, and to his state website. The agency represents three blind residents of Columbus, Cincinnati and Oberlin, Ohio, and the National Federation of the Blind. The suit is based on claimed violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Husted countered that boards of election offer special accommodations for blind voters, including providing direct assistance by board workers.
However, Smith concluded, “The inability of disabled voters to vote absentee in a private and independent manner evidences that these voters do not have the same meaningful access to mail-in absentee voting that non-disabled voters enjoy.”