Fourth Circuit requires Maryland to provide disabled voters with an online ballot-marking tool

Nat’l Fed. of the Blind v. Lamone, No. 14-2001 (4th Cir. Feb. 9, 2016).

A refreshable braille display (credit: flickr / George Williams)

A refreshable braille display (credit: flickr / George Williams)

If you can’t see or have a lot of trouble seeing, and you vote in person at one of Maryland’s 2,000 polling places, you’ll be provided with a voting machine that can magnify the ballot or will allow you to listen to the ballot choices by headset. No such tools are available if you choose to cast an absentee ballot in Maryland—which is why Maryland has been developing an online ballot-marking tool. This tool would allow disabled voters to cast absentee ballots on their computers, enabling these voters to use their electronic assistive devices (a refreshable braille display, for example) to read and mark the ballots. 

The National Federation of the Blind, which was involved in developing this tool, sued Maryland under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act to ensure that the state made the tool available beginning with the 2014 general election. The district court ordered Maryland to make it available, and the Fourth Circuit now affirms that order, rejecting the state’s argument that the accessibility of its in-person polling places excuses the faults of its absentee ballots.