Elections officials sued over secret ballot for blind

Towson man seeks use of touch-screen machines

March 28, 2003|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

A Towson man who has raised concerns about voting procedures for the blind since 1996 sued Baltimore County and state election officials yesterday, alleging that blind voters in the county have been systematically denied the right to a secret ballot.

The complaint, brought by William C. Poole Jr. and four other county residents with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, said election officials should implement immediately touch-screen voting machines that would allow visually impaired voters to cast a ballot without having to rely on poll workers for assistance.

The lawsuit was brought in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, where Poole also turned in November after county election officials had refused to let him vote using a Braille template he had created at his own expense.

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled then that Poole should be allowed to cast a vote using the template and have it counted as an absentee ballot.

Poole has complained that paper ballots used in Baltimore County deny the estimated 20,000 blind and visually impaired voters in the county access to a secret ballot because they must dictate their choices to another person to complete the ballot.

After primary elections in 1996, county officials responded to Poole's complaints by launching a pilot program for a template system in that year's general election.

State election officials have said a statewide touch-screen voting system is expected to be in place by the 2006 elections.

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