WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Oct. 3, four voters who are blind or have a print disability and the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama filed a lawsuit against absentee election managers for Tuscaloosa, Mobile and Jefferson counties challenging Alabama’s inaccessible absentee voting system.
Print disabilities are disabilities that interfere with a person’s ability to read, mark and handle printed paper documents. According to the complaint, “Alabama is among the top eight states in the country for its percentage of residents with vision impairments (3.1%).” The plaintiffs all use Alabama’s absentee ballot program, but it requires them to have the assistance of another person to complete their absentee ballot.
One way for blind voters or voters with print disabilities to vote without assistance from another person is to use accessible electronic ballots. Alabama already makes absentee ballots available electronically to citizens living overseas and in the military, but the state does not currently allow voters with print disabilities to vote electronically.
“By requiring blind and print disabled voters to seek another person’s assistance to complete a paper ballot, Defendants’ absentee ballot systems violate Plaintiffs’ right to vote privately and independently when voting absentee,” the complaint reads. While the absentee voting process allows sighted individuals to vote secretly, independently and privately, the plaintiffs argue that because they must rely on another person for assistance with their absentee ballots, these voters are not afforded that same opportunity.
The plaintiffs argue that Alabama’s absentee voting process is not accessible and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The plaintiffs request that the defendants remedy this violation by implementing a remote accessible mail-in voting system that includes electronic delivery and return of ballots for people with vision and print disabilities for all future elections.
Previously, in 2022, the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama and three voters filed a similar lawsuit against Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) challenging Alabama’s absentee voting process. This case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction on March 15, 2023. Now, voters are back in court attempting to “vindicate the right of individuals who are blind or have print disabilities and who seek to exercise their right to vote privately and independently by absentee ballot.”