Today, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza called for the state Board of Elections to remove the ExpressVote ballot marking device from polling places for the September 13th statewide primary. Common Cause Rhode Island and the ACLU of Rhode Island call on him to retract his comments. Removing the ExpressVote would violate state and federal law and violate the rights of thousands of Rhode Island voters who have a disability. 

 

“If Rhode Island removes the ExpressVote from service during the statewide primary, it would be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Steven Brown, Executive Director of the ACLU of RI. “Voters with disabilities have a right to use a machine that can assist them voting their ballot, and the ExpressVote is that machine.” 

 

“There have been significant problems with implementation of the ExpressVote and our organizations are deeply concerned about them,” said John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “Despite the problems that have been uncovered in the last two weeks, the ExpressVote is necessary to allow voters with disabilities to vote independently.” 

 

One problem with ExpressVote for Spanish-speaking voters, and which will not be fixed until the November election, is that only the touchscreen, and not the printed ballot fed into the machine, is translated into Spanish. But, the two groups said, that is a reason, at most, for poll workers to encourage those seeking a Spanish ballot to vote a hand-marked paper ballot, but it is no reason at all to discard ExpressVote and the benefits it provides voters with disabilities. 

 

The ACLU of Rhode Island and Common Cause Rhode Island have sent multiple letters to the Board of Elections this week urging them to count all eligible ballots, and to make sure ballots produced by the ExpressVote comply with the Voting Rights Act, and the Board has expressed its agreement with those comments.  

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