Possible Landmark decision

From: Charlie Strauss <cems_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Sat Jul 23 2005 - 01:00:36 CDT

A judge has decided in florida that stupidly rushing to buy paperless
voting systems is foolish.


In a victory for Volusia County and foes of paperless voting, a
federal judge Thursday denied blind advocates' demand for disability-
accessible, touch-screen voting devices in Volusia for the Oct. 11
city elections.

U.S. District Judge John Antoon II said previous court cases and
existing federal law do not require equipment for visually disabled
people to vote independently.

Antoon also shot down arguments from attorneys for the National
Federation of the Blind and others suing Volusia County that a state
law requires accessible voting devices for elections after July 1.

He noted that accessibility requirements under the federal Help
America Vote Act take effect Jan. 1, and federal grants to help pay
for accessible devices must be returned if they are not spent by that

But the state law merely authorizes the use of electronic voting
devices and provides standards for certifying such equipment, Antoon
said in his six-page ruling.

The state law "simply has no bearing," he wrote in his order denying
the NFB's request for a preliminary injunction to force the county to
buy touch-screens. The devices allow the visually disabled to vote
using "audio ballots" and headphones.

Daniel F. Goldstein, a partner with the Baltimore-based firm of
Brown, Goldstein & Levy for the NFB and other plaintiffs, said he
would appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in

"I'm disappointed, but it's not the end of the case," Goldstein said.

County Council Chairman Frank Bruno said the ruling supports his
position "that we weren't in any violation of anything."

It gives the county the time it wanted for an alternative device --
possibly a ballot-marking device with a disability-accessible touch-
screen interface called the AutoMark -- to be approved for Florida,
Bruno said.

The decision answers a question for Elections Supervisor Ann McFall
about whether she can conduct this fall's city elections without
adding touch-screens to Volusia's paper-based, optical-scan system.

Doug Towne, a disability consultant for the Florida Division of
Elections, said he was in "complete shock and dismay" about the
judge's decision.

"It's hard for me to even understand how you could read this
statute . . . and think it was anything other than a mandate from the
Legislature" to have accessible voting systems for elections after
July 1.

The NFB and others filed a federal lawsuit in Orlando on July 5 after
a majority of County Council members voted in June against a grant-
funded contract to spend $776,935 for 210 touch-screen machines and
related equipment from Diebold Election Systems.

Council members who voted against the contract sided with activists
who expressed concern because they don't produce paper ballots that
can be checked in close elections and recounts.

In his ruling, Antoon noted that having such a feature has "proved
valuable in at least one of Florida's past elections."

Attorneys for the NFB alleged the County Council vote violated the
federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. That claim, the
judge wrote, relied heavily on a federal case in which Senior U.S.
District Judge Wayne Alley agreed with disability advocates who sued
Duval County in 2001 for accessible and independent voting.

Alley sided with the disability advocates in 2004 but stayed his own
order as the county appealed. But at least two other courts ruled
contrary to Alley in similar cases.

"Against the background of these cases and the tentativeness of the
court's decision [in the Duval case] this Court cannot conclude that
the state of the law is such that there is a substantial likelihood
that Plaintiffs will prevail in their action under the ADA," Antoon

The "substantial likelihood of success" standard is one of four
factors that must be met for a preliminary injunction.

Plaintiff Kathy Davis of Ormond Beach, president of the National
Federation of the Blind of Florida, said she and others will keep

"I don't call this a failure, but a disappointment," she said.

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Received on Sun Jul 31 23:17:19 2005

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