2013-01 Regarding Accessible Voting Systems and Segregated Ballots

Resolution 2013-01

Regarding Accessible Voting Systems and Segregated Ballots

WHEREAS, the right to cast a secret and anonymous ballot is a cornerstone of our democracy that enables citizens to vote their conscience without fear; and

WHEREAS, Maryland’s election law requires that the Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) shall not certify a voting system for use in elections unless it produces a voter-verifiable paper record; and

WHEREAS, Section 9-102(f)(1) of the Maryland election law states that voting systems for persons with disabilities shall "provide access to voters with disabilities that is equivalent to access afforded to voters without disabilities without creating a segregated ballot for voters with disabilities”; and

WHEREAS, SBE is currently in the process of testing accessible voting systems for certification for use in Maryland; and

WHEREAS, one or more of these accessible voting systems that may be submitted to SBE for certification produce a paper ballot that is not the same as the paper ballot that is hand marked by voters without disabilities; and

WHEREAS, a paper ballot produced by an accessible voting system that is distinguishable from a hand marked paper ballot because it is of a different size, or only contains the voter's selections, or contains a barcode that represents the voter's selections, provides a way to identify the voter as a person with a disability, thus denying the disabled voter the same anonymity that is enjoyed by the nondisabled voter; and

WHEREAS, in a letter dated July 8, 2013, SBE requested an opinion of the Maryland Attorney General on what constitutes a "segregated ballot”: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this tenth day of November, 2013, in the city of Ocean City, Maryland, that this organization urge Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler to find that a paper ballot produced by an accessible voting system that is different in any way from the hand marked ballot used by voters without disabilities is a segregated ballot, because it enables the identification of the voter as a person with a disability, and is, therefore, not a secret and anonymous ballot; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge SBE to continue the progress that has been made to provide disabled citizens of Maryland with the opportunity to exercise the same right to a secret ballot as nondisabled voters, but that we have enjoyed only since 2004, by purchasing an accessible voting system that produces a paper ballot that looks the same as, and is tabulated and stored with, the hand marked paper ballots, thus making a ballot cast by a disabled voter indistinguishable from the ballot of a nondisabled voter.