Federal authorities are investigating possible privacy and disability act violations in the way Connecticut’s towns and cities require handicapped Americans to vote in referendum elections. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ndidi N. Moses sent a letter dated Feb. 1, to most, if not all, of the first selectmen, mayors and town managers of the state’s 169 municipalities informing them of the probe. It advises them a complaint was filed contending violations of federal civil rights laws and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Specifically, the allegation charges that voting by paper ballots, which are then segregated and hand-counted, violates privacy and secrecy requirements that are afforded non-disabled voters. U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly said her office is acting on a complaint “that certain cities and towns in Connecticut may not be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act during referendum voting.”
… The IVS system often involves a phone hooked up to a fax machine at the polling place. It is used to amplify sounds for hearing-impaired voters as well as help visually-impaired voters cast their ballot. A poll worker calls the system using their identification numbers then hands the phone to the voter. The voter listens to a line by line reading of the ballot in which numbers are applied to each candidate.
The voter then uses the telephone keypad to record a selection. Once completed a ballot is faxed back. Some of these can only be read by hand. “There is an expense with these machines which require an active telephone line,” DeCaro said. “If a municipality has multiple referenda and elections, it’s best they keep the line active all year to avoid the suspension costs.”
DeCaro said Greenwich has 30,000 active voters but he can’t recall a single person using the system. “We have 12 districts and the ballots might contain as many as 50 names,” he said. “It takes us a full day to sit and listen to the names read off. “And he said it takes a long time for a voter to listen and select candidates.”