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DOJ says Alaska discriminated against voters with disabilities

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(The Center Square) – The Department of Justice said Tuesday that Alaska officials failed to accommodate voters with disabilities during three elections and could be sued if the situation is not fixed.

The allegations stem from complaints filed in the 2020 and 2022 elections and the October 2023 Regional Educational Attendance Area elections, known as REAA.

Paper ballots were used during the REAA elections and no accessible voting machines were available, the DOJ’s letter of findings said.

“One voter with a vision disability, after being told that no magnification device was available, required assistance to vote using a paper ballot,” the findings said. “Another voter with disabilities who has difficulty walking, moving, writing, and talking struggled to complete the paperwork but poll workers failed to offer any assistance.”

Not all election sites had accessible machines or ones that worked during the federal and state elections in 2020 and 2022, according to the DOJ.

“In at least one polling place, the machine was unassembled in its shipping box,” the letter said. “In some locations, poll workers had no training on operating the accessible voting machines. In other locations, poll workers reported that they received training, but they still could not operate the accessible voting machines or correct errors.”

The Department of Elections website has “barriers” for voters with disabilities, the DOJ said.

“Barriers found on the voter registration pages include: no headings; inoperable buttons; no instructions for progress links; low color contrast; pages limited to landscape; pages that do not scale properly; no language tag; inadequate error alerts; and no instructions explaining different options,” the letter said. “Other barriers on the website include language assistance videos without captions and audio descriptions, and graphics without alternative text associated with them.”

The state has until July 1 to respond to the DOJ’s letter.

The Alaska Department of Elections did not immediately return a message from The Center Square.

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