What Assistance Is Given to Disabled Voters to Exercise Their Voting Rights ?
In DiPietrae v. City of Philadelphia, 666 A.2d 1132 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1995), the trial court entered an order, directing that:
"disabled voters [were] authorized to appoint any person of their choice as their agents to obtain absentee ballot applications, to deliver absentee ballot applications to the Board of Elections, to obtain absentee ballots, and to deliver completed absentee ballots to the Board of Elections in person or by mail with the limitation that an individual cannot be the agent for persons living in more than one household." DiPietrae, 666 A.2d at 1133.
On appeal, the question was whether the trial court erred in allowing this assistance. DiPietrae, 666 A.2d at 1132-33.
The Pennsylvania statute governing return of absentee votes provided:
"Such envelope [containing the completed absentee ballot] shall then be securely sealed and the elector shall send same by mail, postage prepaid, except where franked, or deliver it in person to said county board of electors." DiPietrae, 666 A.2d at 1135.
The disabled voters, in arguing that the trial court did not err in allowing them assistance, contended that the ADA "imposed an affirmative duty upon state and local governmental agencies to assure that all persons with disabilities are effectively able to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights, none of which is more important than the right to vote." DiPietrae, 666 A.2d at 1135.
The voters further argued that the Voting Rights Act provides that a disabled voter may be given assistance by a person of the voter's choice. DiPietrae, 666 A.2d at 1135.
The DiPietrae court concluded that "the trial court properly allowed a disabled voter to appoint a person of his or her choice to obtain an absentee ballot application, to deliver it to the Election Board, to obtain an absentee ballot from the Board and to deliver the completed ballot either to the mail box or to the Board." DiPietrae, 666 A.2d at 1135.
However, the court further specifically found that "the trial court's proviso that 'an individual cannot be the agent for persons living in more than one household' appeared to be a reasonable means of balancing the rights of a disabled person who wishes to vote with the public need to insure a fair election." DiPietrae, 666 A.2d at 1135-36.