Texas: Disabilities advocates: Texas mail ballot system disenfranchises people with disabilities | James Barragán/Dallas Morning News

A group of advocates for Texans with disabilities sued the state of Texas on Friday claiming its mail ballot system kept people with disabilities from participating in mail voting. The lawsuit filed in a federal court in Austin alleges that the current system, which is done on paper ballots, is inaccessible to blind voters and other voters with disabilities who can’t compete a paper ballot because of their disability. The plaintiffs asked the federal court to force the state to implement a vote-by-mail system that is remotely accessible for people with disabilities before the November elections. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities and three individual plaintiffs. They are represented by Brown Goldstein & Levy and Disability Rights Texas. “There is plenty of time to allow Texas to make mail-in ballots accessible in time for the upcoming elections on Nov. 3,” Lia Davis, senior attorney at Disability Rights Texas, said in a statement. “People who are blind have a right to use the mail-in ballot option, and they should not be unnecessarily exposed to the COVID-19 virus at the polls. We believe there is an easy remedy to this problem and the Secretary of State’s obstinance is discriminatory.”

Maine: Visually impaired voters sue state over lack of accessible absentee ballots | Megan Gray/Portland Press Herald

A group of voters has sued the state and several municipalities, arguing that the state violated federal law by not providing an electronic alternative to paper ballots for people who are visually impaired. State officials encouraged voters to use absentee ballots during this week’s primary to minimize the risk of people gathering at polling places and spreading COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Every polling place in Maine has an accessible voting machine for people with disabilities, but paper ballots are the only option for most people who want to vote absentee. Four voters from different Maine communities filed the lawsuit in federal court in Bangor on Tuesday. Disability Rights Maine is representing the plaintiffs, each of whom requested an electronic ballot to vote absentee but were denied. The suit names Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and municipal clerks in Portland, Augusta, Bangor and Winslow. While the state allows a voter to receive assistance in reading or marking their absentee ballots, the plaintiffs argue that option compromises their ability to vote independently and privately.

Michigan: Blind voters say Secretary of State Benson broke voting promise | Paul Egan/Detroit Free Press

Blind voters in Michigan are asking a federal judge to find Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in contempt, saying she failed to live up to an agreement to implement a system for them to vote absentee in the August primary. Blind voters Michael Powell and Fred Wutzel, along with the National Federation of the Blind in Michigan, sued Benson in April, alleging that with COVID-19 making it dangerous for blind voters to go to the polls — where they can use special equipment to vote privately and independently — the state’s absentee voting system is unworkable for the blind. But on May 1, the parties in the case agreed to a consent order. That agreement required the state to introduce a Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail system for the Aug. 4 primary, allowing blind voters to cast an absentee ballot privately and independently, just as other voters can. Under the system, blind voters could easily request and receive an accessible ballot online and read it and fill it out with existing screen reading technology, said Jason Turkish, the Southfield attorney representing the plaintiffs.

New York: Advocates Sue Board of Elections to Make Absentee Voting Accessible for the Primary | Ethan Stark-Miller/City Limits

Disability rights groups sued the New York State Board of Elections (BOE) last Friday in a bid to make absentee voting accessible for voters with disabilities by the state’s June 23 primary. There was a hearing on the lawsuit Thursday morning. But the plaintiffs are already seeing some success outside of court, with the BOE passing a resolution on Wednesday to try to make PDF ballots available to some of those who request them for the primary. The groups filed the lawsuit with the Southern District of New York (SDNY), alleging the BOE is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing an accessible absentee voting system. They aim to compel the BOE to provide accessible absentee voting options to New Yorkers with disabilities, because the paper ballots the board currently uses are inaccessible to those with visual impairments and dexterity issues. This is so voters with disabilities can vote privately and independently without going to polling sites to use the accessible voting machines called ballot marking devices, which is a risk to their health amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Pennsylvania: Blind voters sue Pennsylvania, say they risk COVID-19 exposure without online voting option for June 2 primary | Matt Miller/PennLive

The National Federation of the Blind has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Pennsylvania, claiming the state isn’t taking steps to adequately protect blind voters from the coronavirus during the delayed June 2 primary election. A virus-prompted provision that will give sighted voters the option of casting their ballots by mail to avoid possible contagion is useless to blind electors, the federation claims in suit filed in U.S. Middle District Court. It is asking the court to order the state to develop a system where blind voters can select their candidates online. Otherwise, the federation contends, many of those voters will have to either pass up the election or risk their health by going to the polls to seek help in voting from poll workers. “The once-in-a-century impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has indelibly changed Pennsylvania. For example, for the upcoming…primary election, most Pennsylvanians will choose to safely vote via absentee or mail-in ballot instead of going to the polls, where they risk their health,” the suit states. “But this safer, vote-at-home option is not available to blind1 Pennsylvanians, because the commonwealth’s absentee and mail-in ballots are inaccessible to the blind,” it adds. “Pennsylvania’s reliance on exclusively paper ballots keeps blind Pennsylvanians from participating in absentee and mail-in voting.”

Michigan: Blind voters use electronic absentee ballots for first time | Grant Herme/ClickOn Detroit

Blind voters and advocates celebrated this week after Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson was forced to allow the use of electronic absentee voting normally reserved for men and women overseas. The technology allowed many blind voters to cast their ballots independent of help for the first time. The process is simple. The ballot appears on the screen and a person who is blind can have it read to them like any other text through a text-to-speech program. It can also be run through a braille system for the deaf-blind. After a ballot is filled out it’s print, sign and send. Michael Powell, with the Michigan chapter of the National Federation for the Blind, is one of the men suing the state for wider use of the electronic system on behalf of blind voters. “Why should they risk going to a polling location and, and especially if they go to one and they find they can’t use it because the people don’t know how to use the machine or if there’s some kind of issue, and they’ve risked their lives for nothing,” Powell said.

Michigan: Interim deal reached in election lawsuit by blind voters | Associated Press

Michigan election officials have agreed to allow blind voters to use software to complete an absentee ballot in local elections Tuesday. The deal filed in federal court Friday is a temporary fix in an ongoing lawsuit. Blind voters will have an opportunity to request an absentee ballot typically reserved for military personnel or citizens who are out of the country. The ballots can be completed using electronic reader software, the Secretary of State office said. The ballots still must be delivered to a local election clerk by Tuesday night. They can also be picked up or mailed. They’ll count if postmarked by Tuesday.

Michigan: Blind voters sue State for not making absentee ballots accessible during coronavirus | Taylor DesOrmeau/MLive

Absentee ballots aren’t an option for blind Michigan voters who want to vote on their own. And during the coronavirus pandemic – when state officials are encouraging people to stay home and vote absentee instead of congregating at the polls – that’s dangerous, said Jason Turkish, managing partner at Nyman Turkish PC. The firm is suing Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Director of Elections Jonathan Brater for failing to provide alternatives for blind people to vote absentee. The lawsuit requests a judge to require Michigan to implement an accessible absentee voting alternative by the May 5 election. The federal lawsuit was filed over the weekend, on behalf of blind Michiganders Michael Powell and Fred Wurtzel, the current and former president of the Michigan Affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind.

Editorials: In West Virginia, every voter counts | Mac Warner and Jeremiah Underhill/WVNews

It is often said, “every vote counts.” In West Virginia, every voter counts, too. For too long, segments of voters have been disenfranchised from our democratic process through no fault of their own. Deployed armed services members often lack access to mail, printers, and scanners — components needed for casting paper ballots from remote locations. Similarly, voters living with a physical disability are often prevented from marking and casting a ballot secretly when they cannot make it to the polls in person. Technological advancements have torn down barriers to convenient interaction with government and private entities and have increased accessibility without sacrificing a person’s privacy. It is common for people to bank, transfer money, sign documents, shop and receive sensitive medical information via mobile devices, regardless their location around the world. Not only is technology available to help people vote, West Virginia law now requires it. On February 3, 2020, West Virginia took a huge step forward to expand the voting franchise with the signing into law of SB 94. This law requires election officials to make absentee voting fully accessible to voters with physical disabilities who are prevented from voting in-person at the polls and from marking ballots without assistance. These absentee voters with physical disabilities now have an option to mail or electronically submit their ballot back to their county clerk using approved technology.

West Virginia: Secretary of State opts for different voting application for electronic absentee ballots | Chris Lawrence/WV MetroNews

The Secretary of State’s office will go with a different vendor as they work to expanded electronic absentee voting in West Virginia during the 2020 election cycle. Secretary of State Mac Warner has announced that for the upcoming primary election, West Virginia will use the Democracy Live electronic voting system after testing the Voatz app in the last election cycle. “They’ve been around for a decade. They’ve participated in elections throughout the United States since 2010 and they have a fully compliant A-D-A functionality in their system which allows a voter who is blind or visually impaired to mark their ballot without assistance,” Deak Kersey, general counsel for the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office said. West Virginia was part of a pilot program in 2018 and allowed members of the military stationed overseas to vote via the Voatz App.The Voatz App was on a mobile phone whereas Democracy Live is on a fixed server. According to Kersey, only 144 voters used the App in West Virginia’s 2018 general election and only 13 during the primary. It was a pilot project and a test.

West Virginia: State will NOT use controversial voting app Voatz during primary elections | Internewscast

West Virginia has announced it will not be using the voting app Voatz app after researchers found it is ‘riddled with vulnerabilities’. The US state employed the technology in 2018 to troops overseas and was also set to implement it in the upcoming primary elections for residents with disabilities  However, the flaws, uncovered earlier this month by MIT engineers, give hackers the ability to alter, stop or expose how an individual users has voted. Secretary of State Mac Warner said on Friday that disabled and overseas voters will now use a service by Democracy Live which lets them log in to fill out a ballot online or print an unmarked ballot and mail it in. West Virginia has announced it will not be using the voting app Voatz app after researchers found it is ‘riddled with vulnerabilities’. The US state employed the technology in 2018 to troops oversease and was also set to implement it in the upcoming primary elections for residents with disabilities  The US state was set to employ Voatz following a new bill that requires counties to provide certain individuals with a type of online ballot-marking device that can be used with a smartphone.

West Virginia: After damaging report, West Virginia moves away from Voatz internet voting app | Anthony Izaguerre/Associated Press

West Virginia is opting not to use a widely criticized voting app in the state’s coming primary elections after a blistering report found potential security flaws in the platform. Donald Kersey, general counsel in the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, said Monday that an MIT analysis of the Voatz app “gave us enough pause” to instead use a different system for the May elections. The decision came as state officials had to choose an online voting system to comply with a new law requiring electronic ballots for people with physical disabilities. Last month, an MIT study found that Voatz, which has mostly been used for absentee ballots from overseas military personnel, has vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to change a person’s vote without detection. The researchers said they were forced to reverse engineer an Android version of the app because the company hasn’t allowed transparent third-party testing of the system. The Voatz app was used to tally fewer than 200 ballots in West Virginia’s 2018 elections and didn’t have any problems, state officials said. The app has also been used in pilots in Denver, Oregon and Utah.

West Virginia: State backtracks on using Voatz smartphone voting app in state primary | Kevin Collier/NBC

In a surprise turnaround, voters with disabilities in West Virginia won’t be voting with their smartphone the state’s primary in May. They’ll instead be able to use a system that prints out their completed ballot, which they can then mail in. Friday afternoon, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner announced that disabled and overseas voters will be able to use a service by Democracy Live, which lets users log in to fill out a ballot online or print one out and maig it in. It’s a sudden pivot from the state’s embrace of Voatz, a smartphone app that aimed to boost turnout by letting people vote from their phone but that has been heavily criticized by cybersecurity experts. A handful of counties across the U.S. have offered Voatz to overseas and military voters in federal elections, as the city of Denver did in its 2019 mayoral election. But West Virginia offered it to counties statewide. On Feb. 5, the state passed a law requiring its counties to give voters with disabilities the option of eceiving ballots electronically, starting with the May 12 primary elections.

Nevada: New election laws impact Nevada voters | Terri Russell/KOLO

Imagine not having to meet various deadlines to register to vote in Nevada. Instead, during early voting or even on Election Day, you can register and vote all at the same time. ”And they are also going to be able to register to vote online from home during the early voting period and then go to the polling place and case a ballot,” says Wayne Thorley, Nevada Deputy Secretary of State for Elections. Same-day registration is just one of the many new laws Nevada’s Secretary of State must contend with before the presidential election in 2020. The office is working on ways to connect the same-day registration, probably online, confirm it and place it in the system along with the votes cast.

Ohio: Court Won’t Reconsider Ohio Online Ballot Tool Ruling | Bloomberg BNA

A federal district court Nov. 14 declined to reconsider a decision that implementing an online ballot-marking tool in Ohio is an unreasonable request under federal law ( Hindel v. Husted , S.D. Ohio, No. 2:15-cv-3061, 11/14/16 ). The National Federation of the Blind and three blind, registered voters alleged that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide an alternative to paper absentee ballots. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled in May that the technology would fundamentally alter the state’s voting system because it hadn’t been used in a prior Ohio election nor certified in accordance with state law.

Louisiana: State increases private and independent voting options for voters with disabilities | American Press

People with disabilities will now find it easier to vote. On Thursday, Governor John Bel Edwards signed HB 614 into law. This legislation, authored by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, will provide voters with disabilities the opportunity to vote privately and independently via absentee ballot for the first time. “I was honored to author this necessary legislation so that individuals with disabilities will finally gain the independence of filling out their own ballots. This not only enhances voting rights, but also helps reduce fraud,” said Moreno said in a news release. With the signing of this legislation, Louisiana will become one of the first states in the country to make its absentee ballot by mail process accessible to people with disabilities.