Blind Michigan Voters File Federal Lawsuit Against Secretary of State to Give Sightless Equal Chance at Absentee Voting
Current Michigan Absentee Ballot is Inaccessible to the Blind and Forces them to Vote in Person during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Apr 27, 2020, 10:27 ET
SOUTHFIELD, Mich., April 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Nyman Turkish PC, a Southfield-based national disability and litigation law firm, will later today serve Michigan Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson with a federal lawsuit it has filed on behalf of Michael Powell and Fred Wurtzel, two blind Michiganders seeking to bring the state's absentee voting system into compliance with the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Mr. Powell, the President of the Michigan Affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind (NFBMI), and Mr. Wurtzel, former President of the NFBMI are lifelong advocates for the rights of individuals who are blind or suffer from other disabilities. The lawsuit alleges that Michigan's absentee voting system, which only offers traditional paper ballots that must be completed by hand, is unusable for blind Michigan voters. With the expectation of historically-high absentee voting in upcoming elections due to COVID-19, Mr. Powell and Mr. Wurtzel demand that blind voters are provided a fair and equal opportunity to access the ballot box.
"Voting is the most fundamental right, and the current absentee system leaves behind those who are blind or who otherwise cannot use traditional print materials," Mr. Wurtzel said. "In light of the pandemic, the urgency to bring Michigan's absentee voting system into the 21st century is more critical than ever."
Michigan's Constitution was amended by statewide ballot proposal in 2018—guaranteeing every Michigan voter the right to vote absentee for any reason. Despite urging from various individuals and disability rights organizations, the state of Michigan has yet to provide an accessible option for absentee voting, relying solely on traditional paper ballots that must be completed by hand, resulting in many individuals with disabilities being deprived of their right to vote in an accessible, private, and independent manner.
"It is time for the State of Michigan to follow the lead of numerous other states who have implemented accessible absentee voting measures for their blind citizens," said Attorney Jason Turkish, President and Managing Partner of Nyman Turkish PC who is representing Mr. Powell and Mr. Wurtzel. "There are numerous options available to the state to guarantee individuals who are blind are able to vote absentee in a way that guarantees their privacy and independence in doing so."
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires states to offer critical services, including access to voting, in a manner that guarantees equal access for individuals with disabilities. The Lawsuit asks the Federal Court to order the State of Michigan to immediately implement one of the available methods for accessible absentee voting before the May Primary and other future elections, including November's Presidential Contest. "The notion that we will elect the next President of the United States without making our elections accessible to all voters is unacceptable, inexcusable, and at variance with long-standing State and Federal Law," said Attorney David Mittleman, Partner of Grewal Law PLLC who is serving as co-counsel for the Plaintiffs.
"With Covid-19 the stakes could not be higher," said Turkish, adding "the last thing we need during this unprecedented pandemic is Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson forcing vulnerable populations to choose between exercising their sacred right to vote in an accessible and independent manner, or remaining in the safety of their own homes. We are asking a Federal Judge to intervene before a blind person is needlessly infected with this virus as a result of the de facto requirement that they travel to the polls to receive an accessible ballot."
"We are not asking for a penny of damages in this Lawsuit," said Mr. Powell. "All we are asking for is the opportunity to vote in a manner that is safe, private, and accessible, the same way Michiganders without disabilities are able to."
Nyman Turkish PC is a nationwide litigation and disability law firm with over 100 years of collective experience representing individuals with disabilities in vindicating their legal rights. To learn more, please visit our website: http://www.nymanturkish.com or call Toll Free 877.529.4773.
SOURCE Nyman Turkish PC
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