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Discrimination against disabled at several County voting centers


In Watts, Downey, Pasadena

Federal prosecutors have alleged that Los Angeles County discriminated against persons with disabilities at vote centers in Pasadena, North Hollywood, Downey and Watts during recent elections. A lawsuit has been filed claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The probe into the voting program found that the county, acting through its registrar-recorder, excluded qualified individuals with mobility disabilities and those with vision disabilities from voting, the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleged.

The complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court seeks a court order directing the county to comply with the ADA, promptly develop a plan to completely remedy the alleged violations, and not further discriminate against individuals with disabilities.

The lawsuit contends the county is responsible for selecting and providing accessible facilities to be used as polling places or vote centers for federal, state and local elections.

During elections in June 2016, March 2020 and November 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office surveyed over 250 polling places and vote centers, finding that only a small percentage of them complied with the ADA, according to the complaint.

Allegedly non-compliant vote centers in Pasadena, North Hollywood, Downey and Watts are still in use, even though the federal government first alerted the county about accessibility deficiencies at the first three facilities in September 2016 and the Watts location in July 2020, according to prosecutors.

Other accessibility problems were identified with ballot drop boxes used during the November 2020 and November 2022 general elections.

“Voting is a fundamental right, and we will do everything we can to ensure that it is not limited or denied to anyone in our community,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement.

“Through this lawsuit, we demand that Los Angeles County afford individuals with disabilities an opportunity to participate in the county’s voting program that is equal to that provided to nondisabled individuals.”

The lawsuit was brought under Title II of the ADA, which prohibits public entities from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. The federal probe has focused on physical accessibility for persons with mobility disabilities and persons with vision disabilities at county vote centers during the 2020 primary election, the 2020 general election and the 2022 general election. Federal prosecutors say they also reviewed other aspects of the county’s voting programs, including curbside voting and ballot drop boxes.

“Voting is the bedrock of our democracy, and all voters, including those with disabilities, should have an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This lawsuit should send a strong message to officials across the country regarding the Justice Department’s firm

commitment to ensuring polling place accessibility.”