INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Disability Rights and Disability Rights Advocates have filed a lawsuit on behalf of blind Hoosiers who say Indiana’s current model for absentee voting discriminates against them and limits their ability to vote.
The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Indiana and represents plaintiffs Rita Kersh, Kristin Fleschner, and Wanda Tackett. Also supporting the lawsuit is Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission and the American Council of the Blind of Indiana.
The groups argue the Indiana Election Commission and the Secretary of State discriminate against voters who are blind or who have low vision with the current rules for absentee voting. In the complaint, the plaintiffs note the requirement that voters with certain disabilities seek the aid of “traveling boards” to fill out and submit their ballots is unnecessary thanks to new vote-by-mail technology.
“Hoosier voters who are blind or have low vision could easily vote privately and independently at home using electronic tools,” the organizations said in a press release. “Instead, they are being forced to choose between giving up their right to vote privately and independently, risk exposing themselves to COVID-19 at the polls, or not voting at all.”
In Indiana, the complaint continues, ballots continue to be printed rather than offered electronically for absentee voters, including in formats that feature Braille, large print, or audio to help blind voters navigate the ballot on their own. Print ballots require a voter who is blind to rely on third-parties for help — in this case, the traveling boards.
The traveling boards became especially problematic for the plaintiffs during the pandemic, the complaint reads, as some voters did not want outsiders in their home during a public health crisis. The complaint also notes concerns about the traveling boards not being politically balanced and counties not allowing boards to operate in the first place.
Dee Ann Hart, a member of the board of directors for the American Council of the Blind of Indiana, said in a press release the groups attempted to get more alternatives in place before the complaint, but continue to be ignored by election leaders.
“The American Council of the Blind of Indiana has tried to bring this problem to the IEC and SOS’s attention, but they have declined to work with us to implement an accessible way to vote at home. That’s why this suit was necessary,” Hart said.
A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office declined to comment because it is a pending case.
TheStatehouseFile.com is a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.