AUSTIN — Advocacy group Disability Rights Texas filed a systemic class complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice on September 4 and claimed that the voting websites for over 80 Texas counties fail to comply with federal disability laws. The claim named several South Plains area counties.
According to a report used to file the claim, seven of the 24 counties in the South Plains did not have a voting website at all. These were Crosby, Dawson, Dickens, Floyd, Gaines, Garza and King counties. Of those that had a website, two, Bailey and Castro, only scored 1 percent in their rating system, according to the report.
A representative for Disability Rights Texas said the group sent letters to several counties informing them they were not in compliance with federal law. The letters asked for a response on how the counties planned to address the issues.
According to the complaint, 83 counties, including Castro, Cochran, Hale, Lamb, Lynn, Motley, Scurry and Swisher counties, did not respond and were thus named in the claim.
Read the full release by Disability Rights Texas below:
On September 4, Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) filed a systemic class complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) claiming that more than 80 county voting websites in Texas are failing to comply with federal laws because they do not offer equal access to people with disabilities.
County voting websites contain critical information for voters, including polling locations and hours. In light of COVID-19 and changing voter information, it is now especially important that all voters have equal access to voting information on county voting websites.
In July, DRTx released an investigative report, “Web Failures: How County Voting Websites Leave Voters with Disabilities in the Dark.” The report shows that many Texas county voting websites are out of compliance with federal laws because they lack both critical voting information and accessible features which result in people with disabilities failing to receive the same voting information that people without disabilities receive. The report came after a year-long investigation that included an assessment of every county voting website in Texas.
Following the report release, DRTx notified each county of the individual deficiencies of its voting websites and requested the county let DRTx know of its plan to address the website accessibility issues, including what steps the county anticipates taking to ensure compliance for the county’s voting website and when the county anticipates completing the steps. DRTx has committed to provide assistance and resources to counties to make these important improvements. However, many counties failed to respond to the demand.
As a result, DRTx made the determination that additional steps were warranted. This resulted in filing a systemic complaint with the DOJ requesting that the agency investigate these cases of disability discrimination and direct the counties to comply with the law by making needed changes to their voting websites.
“Texas is facing unprecedented challenges during the 2020 election cycle,” said Molly Broadway, Voting Rights Training Specialist for DRTx. “The pandemic has increased our use of and dependence on digital information. Now more than ever, providing equal access to the voting process for people with disabilities through county websites must become a priority.”