Indiana has one of the most restrictive absentee voting systems in the country for blind voters because it only permits them to vote at home by appointment with a “traveling board of election officials.
Hoosier voters who are blind or have low vision could easily vote privately and independently at home using electronic
tools. Instead, they are being forced to choose between giving up their right to vote privately and independently, risk exposing themselves to COVID-19 at the polls, or not voting at all.
In a lawsuit filed December 3, 2020 in federal district court in the Southern District of Indiana, plaintiffs Rita Kersh, Kristin Fleschner, and Wanda Tackett, joined by the Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission and American Council of the Blind of Indiana, assert that the Indiana Election Commission and the Secretary of State are discriminating against voters who are blind or have low vision by not offering the necessary accommodations that these voters need to vote privately and independently when using the absentee
The Indiana Election Commission and Indiana Secretary of State have known for quite some time that the current absentee vote-by-mail system is inaccessible to voters who are blind or have low vision. Both the Indiana Election Commission and the Secretary of State have had over 30 years to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush on July 26, 1990.
The lawsuit provides concrete examples of successful, accessible absentee voting programs that are currently being used by other states and explains how Indiana’s existing accessible military and overseas voting options could be expanded to include voters who are blind or have low vision.
“Voting is one of our most important rights. By operating a voting program inaccessible to some people with disabilities, Indiana is creating unnecessary and unlawful barriers to the voting process,” said Tom Crishon, Indiana Disability Rights Legal Director. “Voters with disabilities must have equal access to all aspects of Indiana’s voting program, including absentee voting.”
“The right to a secret ballot is a fundamental right that most Americans take for granted,” said Jelena Kolic, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates. “Unfortunately, Indiana has failed to respect that right for voters with certain disabilities. Through this case, we hope to ensure that all Hoosier voters are granted equal access to a private and independent vote.”
The plaintiffs are seeking only injunctive relief, not monetary damages, and are represented by attorneys from Indiana Disability Rights and Disability Rights Advocates.