Partner Jessie Weber was featured in The Baltimore Sun article entitled, “Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind works to ensure that every vote counts,” which was published on October 25, 2022. The story focuses on Lou Ann Blake, Director of Research Programs and Blindness Initiatives at the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and her work to ensure equal voting rights for blind individuals.
The article also highlights a 2021 lawsuit that blind voters and the NFB filed against state election officials for violating the ADA by maintaining separate and unequal systems for in-person voting. BGL’s Jessie Weber, Greg Care, and Jamie Strawbridge represented the plaintiffs and helped settle the suit in August 2021. The suit asserted that when Maryland moved from having all voters use electronic voting machines to a hybrid system where most voters use hand-marked paper ballots, with accessible ballot marking devices (BMDs) largely reserved only for voters with disabilities, it created an inferior voting experience for blind voters. The major underutilization of the BMDs threatened the secrecy of blind voters’ ballots. Moreover, because poll workers lacked familiarity with the BMDs, blind voters often encountered machines no one could operate, depriving them of their right to vote privately and independently. As Jessie explained to The Sun, the ADA requires the state to provide equal voting opportunities for voters with disabilities.
The state agreed to pay $230,000 to settle the suit, as well as $2,000 to the NFB to produce an instructional video for poll workers. The state also agreed to install two ballot-marking devices in at least half of all polling sites, invite all voters to use them, and ensure that at least 10 do so at each site. Under the settlement agreement, the state also must report on BMD usage in each election to ensure proper implementation of the agreement.
LEARN MORE ABOUT JESSIE WEBER
Jessie Weber enjoys helping clients navigate a diverse range of difficult legal issues, with a focus on civil rights, including disability and LGBTQ rights, employment law, including wage and hour cases, and appellate litigation. Jessie’s successes include obtaining a $1.25 million settlement for a class of Baltimore City school bus drivers and attendants wrongly denied their full pay, securing an injunction requiring the Maryland Board of Elections to make absentee voting accessible to voters with print disabilities, and winning an arbitration award of more than $250,000 on behalf of an African American former Hooters server who was fired from her job because of Hooters’ racially discriminatory image policy.