Parties Close to Settlement of Voting Rights Case

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on July 17, 2020, against the State of Maine and the Cities of Augusta, Portland, and Bangor and the Town of Winslow, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act on behalf of four visually impaired voters. The aim of the case is to cause the State and municipalities to implement a system which would allow blind voters to vote absentee without help from their personal computers. A system like this is available in a few other states, including Maryland. The plaintiffs allege that because of COVID, accommodations are necessary to avoid vulnerable citizens having to go to the poll or vote absentee and lose their privacy by having a trusted friend help them vote. A conference was held on July 23 with Judge Woodcock and the parties were given two weeks to work out a deal. The State is willing to implement a remote system for blind people to vote by computer based on a system already in place which allows active duty military to vote remotely anywhere in the world. The more complicated part will be figuring out how to make such a system work for local elections. The problem is that each municipality would have its own unique ballot, which would have to be provided to the vendor early enough to be included. There is expected to be a cost to the municipalities, which is unknown at this time. Preti Flaherty attorneys Laura Rideout and Steve Langsdorf are representing Augusta in this case.