Federal District Court Judge Rules ACDL Voting Rights Litigation Will Continue

ACDL News, Disability Law, Voting No comments

Historically, individuals with disabilities have often faced many barriers with access and opportunity at the polls. While different voting rights laws – the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requiring equal access to the voting process and reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, and the Help America Vote Act ensuring the right to a private and independent vote and requiring at least one accessible voting machine at every polling location – have improved access, discrimination against voters with disabilities still persists.

ACDL remains committed to protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to cast their ballots and participate in our democracy.

ACDL recently secured a victory in its litigation against Cochise County, Arizona, concerning the county’s discriminatory blanket ban on curbside voting as a reasonable accommodation for voters with disabilities. In 2020, ACDL filed a lawsuit against Cochise County on behalf of Kathleen Hoffard, an individual with disabilities that greatly affect her ability to walk and stand and impact her immune system function. During the 2018 elections, Ms. Hoffard sought a reasonable accommodation at two vote centers in Cochise County – the ability to vote curbside.

Curbside voting is a process where voters who are unable to enter a polling location due to their disability can ask that a ballot be brought out to them curbside, so they can vote from their vehicle. Several counties in Arizona provide curbside voting and prior to the 2018 election, Cochise County provided curbside voting as well. However, Cochise County had since imposed a blanket ban on curbside voting at its vote centers, and in 2018, denied Ms. Hoffard’s request for a reasonable accommodation to vote curbside.

ACDL filed the lawsuit in Federal District Court on June 3, 2020, asking the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, and arguing that Cochise County’s blanket ban on curbside voting is unlawful and violates the ADA and other civil rights laws. Cochise County filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that because its vote centers have ADA accessible equipment and are in ADA accessible locations, the county does not need to provide curbside voting as a reasonable accommodation. On June 30, 2021, the judge ruled in ACDL’s favor and denied the County’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. As a result, Cochise County will now need to answer the complaint ACDL filed, and the lawsuit will move forward.

Individuals with disabilities and disability rights advocates understand that disabilities are wide-ranging and reasonable accommodations provided for in the law may be needed to remove barriers and afford equal opportunity.

Voting access will always be an important issue for ACDL and near Independence Day celebrating the birth of this nation we are reminded of what President Harry S. Truman once said: “Your vote is your best way of getting the kind of country – and the kind of world – you want.” Every voter should be given equal opportunity to get the kind of country they want.

 

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