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Blind, Disabled Voters Suing Election Board to Gain Online Voting

A blind and hearing impaired woman in Bowie says her voting rights were curtailed in the June primary. She couldn't hear ballot selections on a headset and said having a poll worker read choices to her violated her privacy.

A blind and hearing impaired woman in Bowie says her voting rights were curtailed in the June primary. File|Patch
A blind and hearing impaired woman in Bowie says her voting rights were curtailed in the June primary. File|Patch

A blind and hearing impaired Bowie woman, who was already part of a lawsuit against the Maryland election board alleging disabled voters’ rights were curtailed, has filed a new complaint.

Janice Toothman, 52, is one of three Maryland voters taking part in legal action initiated by the National Federation of the Blind in May.

A new complaint filed says that Toothman was unable to vote privately or independently in the June primary election, according to the Maryland Reporter. Her voting card was not programmed as a “non-visual ballot,” when she arrived at the polls. After the card was updated and she was given a headset through which she could hear the ballot choices, Toothman had difficulty hearing because of background noise in the voting station and the low volume of the headset.

The Maryland Reporter says election officials offered to read the ballot choices to Toothman, but she declined, saying it took away her right to vote in the same manner as people without disabilities — a right guaranteed through the American for Disabilities Act.

“This is not how Ms. Toothman wishes to vote; she wants to vote privately and independently and with the confidence that she is casting her vote correctly,” her attorney, Jessica Weber, told the Reporter.

Weber’s firm filed suit after the state rejected a system that would have allowed disabled voters to download blank ballots to their computers and fill them out using programs designed to help them vote.

The lawsuit says the board's decision deprives Toothman and the other plaintiffs of the opportunity to vote "privately and independently," reports The Baltimore Sun. The plaintiffs are seeking a state-approved online voting system that anyone with disabilities can use; several groups have raised security concerns about such a system.

The three Maryland voters with different disabilities unsuccessfully sought an injunction so they could vote absentee in the primary. They are Melissa Riccobono, who is blind and heads the group's Maryland chapter; Kenneth Capone of Elkridge, who has cerebral palsy and can't use his arms or legs; and Toothman.

The next state board meeting is set for 2 p.m. today, July 10, in Annapolis, and blind and disabled voters are scheduled to speak to the board.

MG42 July 10, 2014 at 12:36 PM
What are the concerns to such a system? Currently, you don't even need to show ID, so the elections are pretty much a farce anyway.
J Leland July 10, 2014 at 01:42 PM
You've never had to show ID. Have they always been a farce or is this a new thing?

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