December 9, 2021

Four 2020 lawsuits over internet voting

Citizens with disabilities (and voters living abroad) must have the substantive right to vote—that’s the law.  Sometimes that turns into a demand for internet voting.  But as I wrote earlier this year, internet voting is dangerously insecure, it’s not what most voters with disabilities want, and there are much better ways of accommodating voters with disabilities, and the states should implement those accommodations.

Last year saw several lawsuits demanding internet voting as an accommodation—that is, the return of voted ballots by internet.  The most recent of these (in New Hampshire) was just recently settled. 

  • In 2020, the National Federation for the Blind sued the State of Virginia asking for internet voting (and other accommodations for voters with disabilities).  The parties settled for no internet voting, but other accommodations for voters with disabilities.
  • In 2020, New Jersey quietly took steps to allow internet voting, were sued on the basis that this would be both insecure and illegal; and then agreed not to pursue internet voting in New Jersey, but to use other means to accommodate voters with disabilities.
  • In 2020, a group of plaintiffs living abroad sued 7 states in U.S. District Court asking for internet voting.  The court denied their request for a preliminary injunction, and then the plaintiffs moved to dismiss the case.
  • In 2020, the National Federation for the Blind sued the State of New Hampshire asking for internet voting, and for accessibility improvements in the State’s election website (that provides information for voters).  The parties settled for no internet voting, but other accommodations for voters with disabilities (some of which New Hampshire already had in place), and for improvements in the web site.

There’s a pattern here.  The courts have not recognized a right to vote by internet; these States have declined to adopt this insecure method of voting; and these States have been willing to adopt other reasonable accommodations for voters with disabilities.

Perhaps it would be a good idea for the NFB to remove internet ballot return from its set of demands, and focus on the other reasonable and practical reforms that they have been requesting (or suing for):  Make websites accessible, improve procedures in the way voters with Print Disabilities are permitted to prepare and return their ballots, and perhaps some of the improvements suggested by Noel Runyan at the end of my previous article.

Added shortly after publication: It has come to my attention that there was a fifth 2020 lawsuit, Taliaferro et al. v. North Carolina State Board of Elections. I’ll write about that in a future article.