RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A federal lawsuit filed Monday by a coalition of disability advocacy groups and five Virginia residents claims that the state’s absentee voting requirements violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and prevent voters with disabilities from casting their ballots “privately and independently.”
The lawsuit argues that the current absentee voting system discriminates against eligible voters who are unable to mark a paper ballot because they are blind, suffer from low vision, or their manual dexterity is impaired.
“Because the absentee ballot is provided only in hard copy and must be read in standard print and filled in by hand, these Virginia citizens are unable to cast their ballot privately and independently,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, they must reveal their choices to another person and hope that person correctly records their vote. Otherwise, they must risk COVID-19 infection by traveling to the polls to vote in person.”
The plaintiffs in the suit, which includes the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, the American Council of the Blind of Virginia and five state residents, want Virginia to implement its vote-by-mail system statewide before the elections in November.
“We are disappointed that the Virginia Department of Elections has not been forward in articulating a plan that would provide for a private, safe and independent ballot for voters with disabilities,” Sam Joehl, the president of the American Council of the Blind of Virginia, said in a statement. “We call upon the Virginia government to uphold their legal and moral obligations by implementing a solution that allows voters with disabilities to cast their ballots safely and independently. The ADA was signed into law 30 years ago to prevent situations like the one we have in Virginia.”
This story is developing. Check back for updates.