October 15, 2020  |  BOSTON

Voting rights advocates are frustrated. They’re running into obstacles at every turn while trying to make voting accessible for every eligible voter. Forward-looking election officials, representatives of disenfranchised communities, and others all recognize that we need Internet voting options to ensure that everyone can safely and privately access their ballot - and yet are stymied by the concerted effort to stick to paper.

They are fed up and furious. They’re now taking legal action, filing hundreds of lawsuits this election that showcase the gaping holes in the way we vote - few remote options, inaccessible ballots, unreliable mail, and no contingencies. In the laundry list of lawsuits, there are several that could fundamentally change voting. They also highlight the desperate situation of disenfranchised voters who are most at risk of being shut out of their right to vote.

We spotlight some lawsuits that deserve your attention and will chart the course for voting in the future.


The Disability Law Center, on behalf of several advocacy groups and individuals, filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts that demanded easier access to Internet voting - so that voters could vote from the privacy and safety of their home. Secretary of State William Galvin recently settled the lawsuit, allowing qualified disabled voters to request a ballot that could be submitted over email. Tatum Prichard, the litigation director at the Disability Law Center, said, “This is a significant step forward in making sure people can vote safely from their homes like all other voters and without the assistance of other people."


Impacted by Covid-19

A coalition of racial justice organizations urged Florida to consider expanding mail ballot transmission options for voters affected by COVID-19 during the Presidential Primary Election. They claim denial of critical voter opportunities is in violation of the 14th Amendment. The options they asked the state to consider include returning ballots via email and fax.


The American Council of the Blind of Virginia, joined by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, sued the state to allow electronic return of ballots for roughly 170,000 blind voters in the state. Virginia has offered electronic ballot marking, but voters will have to print and return ballots - which only slightly eases the challenge for a blind voter.

Commenting on the resolution provided by the state, Sam Joehl, president of the American Council of the Blind of Virginia said, “The groups intend to press the state for long-term solutions after the November election.”


Overseas Citizens

A group of 10 overseas citizens argued in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court-Eastern District of New York that American citizens living abroad - because of the limited modes of voting - are being denied their ability to vote. The lawsuit is unique in that it is against seven states - New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Georgia.

These are just a few examples of the challenges in court - the tangible manifestation of the contentious debates we have on public platforms (and coincidentally, our phones).

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Accessible Voting Is Here

Mobile voting gives access to those facing significant obstacles to their ballot. In over 70 successful elections, voters have recognized the convenience and thoughtful design of the Voatz platform - we collaborate with WGBH's National Center for Accessible Media to ensure that voters with disabilities and citizens residing overseas can vote with dignity and privacy.

Read more about our commitment to accessible voting here

You know, most of my friends didn’t vote because it was too complicated with the way the mail is here — or isn’t here, really. Most of them were very jealous and hoped that they could get the chance to vote this way someday.” 

Amiti Malloy, Overseas Voter
(more on her story here)

The mobile voting registration was very easy to maneuver with an ID verification process that gave me confidence that the process was secure. When the ballot was available, I clicked through the candidates, hit ‘vote’, then used the thumbprint Touch ID on my phone to verify who I was. That was it. Pretty slick!”

— Deployed Military Voter

I remembered thinking it was very intuitive, easy to use, and easy to make my selections. I also thought it was a cool use of facial recognition technology to verify my identity by matching me to my government-issued ID….In any given week I have a lot going on. Today, we’re on an airborne operation and I could be back at a reasonable hour, or the weather could change and our timeline could get pushed late into the night. When you’re mailing or emailing your ballot, you lose that anonymity, but with this, my choices remain anonymous — that was extremely important.” 

— Captain Scott Warner, Deployed Military Voter (more on his story here)


Harvard Business School students have been analyzing Voatz as a case study in public entrepreneurship for two years. Listen to Harvard Business School professor Mitchell Weiss, as he discusses the risks, rewards, and business models for mobile voting in his case study on “Voatz.”

Weiss, in talking about the case study and his Public Entrepreneurship class: "We do live in a democracy where people feel like their ideas aren’t represented. We do live in a democracy where we’re not solving our biggest problems. I want them [the students] to feel like possibility could and should be for that, but I also want them to think about the perils of doing that, the dangers of doing that, the risks of doing that and the responsibility they have to do that wisely and prudently. I hope they’ll leave class with both feeling the potential of possibility of government, and also feeling the duty that comes along with it."

Listen "Can Entrepreneurs Make Mobile Voting Easy and Secure?"



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