Lisa Ells and Michael Nunez of RBGG and co-counsel Robert Rubin represent the California Council of the Blind and two blind individuals in a federal voting rights action challenging the failure of the State of California and San Mateo County to provide voters with vision impairments the opportunity to equally participate in the County’s absentee voting program, which has historically relied on inaccessible paper ballots. 

In September 2016, the parties stipulated to and the Court ordered a framework for certifying and implementing an accessible absentee voting system in San Mateo County.   See Legal Deal Allows Visually Impaired in County to Vote Remotely, Privately.  Just over a year later, on October 12, 2017 the California Secretary of State certified two accessible absentee voting systems, the Five Cedars Alternate Format Ballot and the Democracy Live Secure Select system for use in California.  These accessible absentee voting systems  allow blind voters and voters with other print disabilities to vote absentee independently.  Voters can download their ballots onto a computer equipped with their preferred assistive technology, fill out the ballots, and print and mail their completed voting records to elections officials just as other voters would return traditional absentee ballots.

On October 25, 2017 the County of San Mateo announced implementation of the Democracy Live Secure Select System for disabled and visually impaired voters in time for this November’s election, becoming the first county in California to deploy such a system as authorized under AB2252.  See San Mateo County Unveils Accessible Vote by Mail System

According to RBGG’s Lisa Ells, “San Mateo’s implementation of the accessible voting tools has been fast, inexpensive, and smooth and that we look forward to the other counties following suit so that all CA voters with vision impairments can take advantage of the convenience of absentee voting without sacrificing their right to vote privately and independently.”