November 4, 2022
The National Federation of the Blind of Alabama (NFBAL) is suing the Secretary of State of Alabama over the necessity for a blind person to secure a sighted person’s assistance to vote by absentee ballot.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLS) filed the lawsuit in June on behalf of the NFBAL in the Northern District of Alabama. Co-plaintiffs include blind citizens Gail Smith, Jill Rossiter, and Eric Peebles.
The complaint centers on the Alabama absentee voting system, which requires paper ballots without an option to cast a vote electronically. Blind citizens cannot vote using paper ballots without help from a sighted person. The lawsuit contends that this violates their right to vote privately and independently.
The suit charges that electronic ballot technology is already available in Alabama for citizens living overseas and in the military. Remote electronic voting would allow blind citizens to vote without assistance.
Alabama has refused to make its existing electronic system available to blind voters, according to the complaint. The suit asserts that denying the right of blind citizens to vote privately in absentee – as is the right of sighted citizens – violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) The petitioners request that blind persons be allowed to use the state’s electronic absentee ballot system.
Alabama Secretary of State, John H. Merrill, argues that the complaint should be dismissed because the petitioners lack standing to sue him directly, according to a motion to dismiss filed in July. Merrill contends that blind persons can vote in private by electronic ballot in person and that Alabama is not obligated to accommodate their “preference” to vote absentee. Merrill claims that the ADA does not apply to state election law.
The Click attempted to reach Merrill’s legal representation for comment.