Scoop (New Zealand)
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OPINION ON VVPT
(from Kim Alexander)
The United States Department of Justice has issued an opinion, through its Office of Legal Counsel, stating
that the inclusion of a voter-verified paper audit trail as a feature for a Direct Record Electronic (DRE) voting machine
would be consistent with both the Help America Vote Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, so long as the DRE voting
system provides a similar opportunity for sight-impaired voters to verify their ballots before those ballots are finally cast.
The opinion is dated October 10 and was issued in response to an August 12th request from California Secretary
of State Kevin Shelley. It is online at: http://www.usdoj.gov/olc/2003opinions.htm
This opinion is important because many elections officials who support the voter-verified paper trail are
concerned that implementing this requirement would invite lawsuits from disability groups claiming the voter-verified paper
trail violates the rights of blind voters. This opinion should put to rest those concerns.
Here's the summary:
"A direct recording electronic voting system that produces a contemporaneous paper record, which is not accessible
to sight-impaired voters but which allows sighted voters to confirm that their ballots accurately reflect their choices before
the system officially records their votes, would be consistent with the Help America Vote Act and with Title II of the Americans
with Disabilities Act, so long as the voting system provides a similar opportunity for sight-impaired voters to verify their
ballots before those ballots are finally cast."
Here's a great excerpt from the opinion:
"The ability to verify one's ballot before casting it is essential, cf. ｧ 15481(a)(1)(A)(i), but the
availability of multiple techniques by which to do so is not. Disability accommodations often result in a greater range of
methods by which non-disabled persons can accomplish their goals, yet such accommodations are not deemed to deny equal opportunities
for disabled persons for that reason alone. Consider a building that provides both a set of stairs and a wheelchair ramp to
its outdoor entrance. Non-disabled persons have more means to enter the building (they can use either the stairs or the ramp),
while the wheelchair-bound person can use only the ramp. But no one would contend that such a building has deprived disabled
persons of the "same opportunity" to access the building. That is because the essential requirement of access -- the ability
to get to the front door -- is available to all. The means to achieve that end differ, and non-disabled persons have a greater
number of options, but provision of the ramp suffices to provide disabled persons with a similar (though not "identical")
opportunity. So too with the DRE voting systems, as you have described them. "