July 20, 2005 – An approaching deadline for the purchase and installation of electronic voting machines designed to ease the voting process for Floridaâ€™s disabled citizens has pulled one county into court and created a rift in the stateâ€™s disabled advocacy community over the necessity of including paper receipts on the machines.
On July 5, the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) filed suit in federal court, claiming that Volusia County is in violation of state law, and must install 210 handicapped-accessible touch screen machines 90 days before the next election on October 11, according to court papers.
The NFB, which has a longstanding partnership with e-voting machine manufacturer Diebold, is asking the court to force Volusia county council members to approve the purchase immediately.
Five days before the case was filed, by a vote of four-to-three, the Volusia County Council decided not to purchase the machines until an alternate version that utilizes a paper record is approved by the state elections board, the Dayton Beach News-Journal reported. It was the second time the Council voted against the paperless touch screen system approved by the County Elections Commissioner.
Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation joined in the legal fray, filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the four Council members on behalf of the Handicapped Adults of Volusia County (HAVC), a disability advocacy group opposed to spending money on machines that do not provide a paper record of a personâ€™s vote. The legal filing came one day before oral arguments in the US District Court were to be heard.
"Accessibility and auditability should not be conflicting values when it comes to voting equipment," HAVC president David Dixon said in a statement accompanying the EFF announcement. "National advocates for the blind do the disabled community of Volusia County a disservice when they presume to speak on our behalf for flawed systems that we do not want."
According to an Orlando Sentinel account of Fridayâ€™s court arguments, the two sides differ on when the county must install electronic machines. NFB and state officials contended the date has passed, while lawyers for HVAC and the Council asserted that the deadline is actually January 1, 2006.
U.S. District Judge John Antoon II as soon as possible, the Sentinel reported.