Voters with Disabilities in Shasta County May Be Left with No Option for Private and Independent Voting

Disability Rights California is deeply concerned by the Shasta County Board of Supervisors’ 3-2 vote to terminate the County’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. (Dominion). Under this contract, Dominion provides the voting system used in the County’s elections.

The Board’s decision has a huge impact on voters with disabilities! The voting system includes accessible voting machines (also called ballot-marking devices) that voters can use when they vote in person at a polling place. These voting machines enable voters with disabilities to exercise their right to vote privately and independently with the following features:

Voters with visual impairments, including blindness, can listen to an audio version of the ballot. They also can increase the text size and change the color contrast on the touchscreen. They can navigate the ballot using the touchscreen or using a handheld controller with large buttons that are different shapes and colors.

Voters with dexterity impairments, such as from cerebral palsy, a spinal cord injury, or a stroke, can mark their ballot using the touchscreen, the handheld controller, a sip-and-puff device, or paddle switches.

The voting system also includes a remote accessible vote-by-mail (RAVBM) system. RAVBM enables private and independent voting by mail for some voters with disabilities by allowing them to complete a ballot on their own computer, using their own assistive technology, and then return a printed ballot to elections officials as they would any other paper vote-by-mail ballot.

Because the Board of Supervisors abruptly decided to terminate its contract with Dominion, these accessible voting options from Dominion will not be available in Shasta County after a special election scheduled for March 7, 2023.

If Shasta County does not provide suitable and fully functional replacements for these current accessible voting options for all elections after the special election in early March—a mere month away—it not only will be failing its disabled citizens who need these options in order to exercise their right to vote, it will be in violation of both federal and state law. Federal and state law, including the federal Help America Vote Act (also known by the acronym HAVA), require, among other things, that voting systems give people with disabilities the same opportunities for access to and participation in the voting process, including private and independent voting, as they do for nondisabled voters. The Shasta County supervisors who voted for termination of the contract with Dominion did not, at that same meeting, describe any plan for how they would satisfy the County’s obligations to voters with disabilities after early March 2023.

While we are strongly critical of the three members of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors who voted to terminate Dominion’s contract without having another approved voting system in place, we simultaneously commend Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen for her years of demonstrated commitment to serving the needs of voters with disabilities, as well as for her repeated efforts to educate county supervisors and the public about the crucial role accessible voting systems play in upholding the right to a private and independent vote for all voters.

Press Release

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