Updates in implementation of North Carolina’s absentee voting portal for blind voters

October 9, 2020 – Raleigh, NC – Last month, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina granted a motion for preliminary injunction against the North Carolina State Board of Elections (“NCSBOE”), ordering them to make their Absentee Voting Program accessible to voters with disabilities by the November election. The accessible voting platform—which is compatible with screen readers—is now expected to go live on October 19, 2020.

If a voter has already requested a paper absentee ballot, they may still opt into the accessible electronic platform, as long as the voter has not already returned a marked paper ballot. Updated information about this process can be found via Disability Rights North Carolina’s website or the NCSBOE website. For those interested in being notified when the system is live, please email voting@disabilityrightsnc.org.

The threat of COVID-19 brought the existing discrimination against voters with disabilities caused by the inaccessibility of the print-based Absentee Voting Program to the forefront, highlighted in the systemic lawsuit filed July 27, 2020, the day after the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, by a coalition of groups including Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Rights North Carolina, the North Carolina Council of the Blind, the Governor Morehead School Alumni Association, Inc., and several North Carolina voters with disabilities.

Finding NCSCBOE in violation of Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Chief District Judge Terrence Boyle’s ruling ordered the NCSBOE allow voters with vision disabilities to opt into the already accessible electronic platform used by North Carolina’s military and overseas voters. This includes accessible electronic means for requesting, receiving, marking, and returning absentee ballots. The preliminary injunction only applies to the upcoming November election. Plaintiffs will continue their pursuit of a fully accessible absentee ballot for all subsequent elections.

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About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA): Disability Rights Advocates is a leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA has a long history of enforcing the rights of voters with disabilities, including their rights to accessible voting machines, polling places, and online voter registration. Visit www.dralegal.org.

About Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC): Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC) is the federally mandated protection and advocacy agency for the State of North Carolina dedicated to advancing the rights of all people with disabilities, of all ages, statewide. DRNC is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a member of the National Disability Rights Network. Learn more about Disability Rights North Carolina at www.disabilityrightsnc.org.

Contacts

Disability Rights Advocates: Rosie Bichellrbichell@dralegal.org510-529-3432

Disability Rights North Carolina: Holly Stilesholly.stiles@disabilityrightsnc.org919-856-2195

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