Tallahassee, FL – The Secretary of State, the Supervisors of Elections throughout the State of Florida and the Florida Council of the Blind have reached a settlement in the ADA voting rights case, Williams v. DeSantis and Nielsen v. DeSantis, and ensured that the blind and print impaired will be permitted to complete a vote by mail secretly and independently using their computer.
After years of advocacy, the Florida Council of the Blind and their members Jim Kracht, Debbie Grubb, Doug Hall, Carl McCoy and Dolor Ginchereau have fought for the right to independently cast a secret ballot through the vote-by-mail process in Florida. On Sunday, the very day of the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, after resolving a lawsuit with the Florida Secretary of State and all 67 counties, they have achieved their goals and a path to accessible voting by mail throughout Florida.
In Florida, everyone has the right to cast their ballot in secret and this is a core value in the elemental aspects of being a full citizen of the United States. Voting by secret ballot is essential to the integrity of the electoral process as it allows voters to cast their ballot without fear or intimidation. For my clients who are blind, and those with other print disabilities who need to use technology to complete a ballot, a paper ballot did not allow them the same benefits and privileges of every other citizen.
This settlement provides the means to do so.
This settlement balances the rights of voters who need this technology because of their disability and the immense pressures of supervisors that are required to run an orderly election in less than 100 days in the most contentious and scrutinized state in the United States,
This settlement provides accessible vote-by-mail through a pilot program in five counties, Miami-Dade, Nassau, Orange, Pinellas, and Volusia Counties. It creates a blue-ribbon commission, inclusive of persons with disabilities, to develop appropriate regulations, policies, practices and procedures to ensure that this is implemented throughout the State of Florida and requires implementation by March of 2022. The FCB, its members, and the Supervisors of Elections have worked diligently to come to this settlement, even yesterday, which was the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We all recognize how momentous this occasion is and the meaning and purpose of this law to ensure that persons with disabilities have a right to fully participate in all aspects of society, and the ongoing goal to remove societal and institutional barriers in our country.
As the father of the ADA, Justin Dart Jr., stated, “Vote like your life depends on it, because it does!”
There are over 500,000 persons who are blind in the state of Florida, and hundreds of thousands of others who are print impaired. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, many voters are afraid and reluctant to go to the polls and vote. The FCB and its members are very excited and look forward to ensuring that this voting system is implemented statewide.
Florida Council of the Blind is the Florida affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. Its purpose is to make life better through public education, legislative actions, and offer educational, social, and economic opportunities specific to the needs of blind individuals. FCB is comprised of over 800 members who live throughout the State of Florida, and are blind and deaf-blind.
Matthew W. Dietz, Esq. is litigation director of Disability Independence Group, Disability Independence Group is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes recruitment, education and employment of persons with disabilities thereby improving their lives through competitive employment and financial stability; and through the changing of society’s perception of person with disabilities.
For More Information Contact:
Matthew W. Dietz Esq.
Disability Independence Group, Inc.
2990 SW 35th Avenue* Miami, FL 33133