Disability Rights Ohio wins attorneys' fees in voter accommodation case
April 1, 2013 / voting
The Southern District Court of Ohio recently awarded Disability Rights Ohio attorneys’ fees and costs in an important case affirming the rights of voters with disabilities. In this case, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and the county board of elections had refused to accommodate a voter with a disability, who had not received the absentee ballot she requested until the day after Election Day and whose disability prevented her from traveling to her polling location. After Disability Rights Ohio initiated emergency litigation on the evening of Election Day to protect her rights and ensure her an equal opportunity to exercise her fundamental right to vote, the court later concluded that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required that her vote be counted.
Congress included a provision in the ADA that allows a court to order state or local officials who violate the law to pay the attorney’s fees of the person who had to go to court to enforce their rights. Congress intended these “fee shifting” provisions as a remedy for the prevailing party, to encourage compliance with the ADA, and to provide an incentive for qualified attorneys to take cases when violations occur. Disability Rights Ohio uses these funds to provide needed advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities in elections and other contexts.