Resolution 2009-04 Regarding Accessible Voting in Maryland

         WHEREAS, Maryland made a commitment to its blind citizens guaranteeing the right to a secret ballot; and

WHEREAS, in 2001 the state of Maryland was among the first states to authorize a fully accessible voting process, which included uniform systems for voting in polling places and for voting absentee through enactment of H.B. 1457; and

WHEREAS, all voters in Maryland were using the uniform systems as of 2006, with some beginning as early as 2002; and

WHEREAS, legislation enacted during the 2007 legislative session and additional legislation passed during the 2009 session creates a primary voting system that uses optical scan voting equipment, including a voter-verifiable paper record but also maintains the Direct Recording Equipment (DRE) voting system previously purchased by the state for blind or otherwise disabled people and any others who prefer it over the newly mandated optical scan system until an optical scan system can be made accessible to many more blind and disabled voters than is presently possible; and

WHEREAS, though blind Marylanders benefited from the uniform DRE voting system for all Maryland voters, not one election occurred without numerous instances when poll workers failed to properly prepare the machines to be used by blind voters even though we used the same machines as all Maryland voters; and

WHEREAS, the practice of now using two different voting systems will inevitably lead to greater confusion for poll workers and election officials as well as frustration of Maryland voters unless specific, comprehensive  training on DRE machines and their accessible features is mandated by the State Board of Elections; and

WHEREAS, to avoid misinformation, state and local boards of elections should widely advertise that all voters have a choice between the two voting systems they use to cast their ballots and that accessible machines remain available to blind and other disabled voters: Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this 15th day of November, 2009, in the City of Ocean City, Maryland, that we insist that the State Board of Elections ensure the right to a secret ballot for blind citizens by developing strong guidelines that assure that poll workers receive comprehensive training on the Direct Recording Equipment voting machines that remain available to Maryland’s blind and nondisabled voters alike; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call on each of the twenty-four voting jurisdictions in this state to provide meaningful training of poll workers and voting officials on the proper use of the DRE machines and their nonvisually accessible functions; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization direct every election board in the state to advertise the choice in voting equipment available to all citizens and to promote in particular the availability of accessible equipment for blind and disabled citizens.