Contact: Tatum A. Pritchard, Director of Litigation
firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-723-8455 Ext. 138
October 13, 2020
FEDERAL COURT APPROVES AGREED JUDGMENT IN CASE THAT DLC FILED TO ENSURE ACCESSIBLE VOTE BY MAIL FOR VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock issued a Judgment in Rivero, et al. v. Galvin, et al., 1:20-cv-11808-DPW, a suit that DLC filed on October 2, 2020 on behalf of four individual plaintiffs, Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL), and Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB). In the Complaint and Motion for Preliminary Injunction, plaintiffs alleged that the existing Accessible Vote by Mail (AVBM) program that the Secretary of the Commonwealth put in place shortly before the primary – following DLC’s filing of an emergency petition in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court – failed to provide meaningful access to the voters with disabilities for whom it was created to accommodate in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation. Specifically, the AVBM program prevented voters who are blind or have low vision, mobility/dexterity disabilities, or other disabilities that make it difficult or impossible for them to effectively access standard printed text (“print disabilities”) from casting their AVBM electronic ballots without third party assistance.
Per the terms of the Judgment issued today voters with print disabilities will now be able to cast their AVBM electronic ballots via email to the Secretary’s AVBM Coordinator, along with an accessible electronic affidavit that can be completed with a typewritten signature for voters whose disabilities prevent them from inserting a hand-drawn signature. Voters participating in the AVBM program may also still submit their electronic ballots by mail by printed and placing them in the envelopes provided by local election officials. This Judgment constitutes a critical victory ensuring that Massachusetts voters with disabilities can exercise their right to vote privately and independently in the upcoming general election without risking exposure to COVID-19 at the polls.
DLC also thanks our individual plaintiffs, BCIL, and BSCB for their efforts in getting this resolution. In addition, DLC recognizes the Secretary of the Commonwealth for his office’s willingness to respond to plaintiffs’ allegations and quickly negotiate the terms of this important Judgment.
The processes that voters must follow to request access to and cast their ballots through the AVBM program is described on DLC’s website and updated information reflecting the changes ordered by the Judgment should be available soon on the Secretary’s website. While DLC encourages voters with print disabilities to apply as soon as possible, the Secretary must accept requests for accommodations and applications per the Judgment until 5:00 p.m. on October 28, 2020. DLC invites feedback from voters with disabilities who have difficulty getting access to the AVBM program or experience challenges completing the process to submit their ballots.