Case: Charlson v. Galvin

SJ-2020-0588 | Massachusetts state supreme court

Filed Date: Aug. 21, 2020

Closed Date: Sept. 1, 2020

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Case Summary

This case involved voting accommodations for the 2020 Massachusetts primary election that was set to take place on September 1, 2020. On August 21, 2020, the Disability Law Center (DLC) (Massachusetts’s Protection and Advocacy agency) filed an emergency petition for relief on behalf of the Bay State Council of the Blind, the Boston Center for Independent Living, and six individual voters with disabilities against the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (“Secretary”) in his official c…

This case involved voting accommodations for the 2020 Massachusetts primary election that was set to take place on September 1, 2020. On August 21, 2020, the Disability Law Center (DLC) (Massachusetts’s Protection and Advocacy agency) filed an emergency petition for relief on behalf of the Bay State Council of the Blind, the Boston Center for Independent Living, and six individual voters with disabilities against the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (“Secretary”) in his official capacity. According to the petitioners, the Secretary neither secured the necessary technology to provide voters access to an Accessible Vote by Mail (AVBM) ballot nor implemented mechanisms to enable voters with disabilities to request access to the accommodation. The petitioners argued that recently passed Massachusetts legislation, the Massachusetts Constitution, the Massachusetts Equal Rights Amendment, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required access to AVBM to enable them to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The petitioners sought declaratory and injunctive relief, including an order mandating the Secretary to make an AVBM available to registered voters with print disabilities before the primary election. This case was filed in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, and Associate Justice David A. Lowy presided over this case.

On August 24, 2020, the Massachusetts Attorney General filed a letter with the court on behalf of the Secretary indicating that the parties were open to mediation. The court issued a judgment the following day. Upon agreement of the parties, the court ruled that voters with disabilities would be permitted to seek accommodations from the Secretary if they followed the procedure stipulated in the agreement for their vote to be counted. The court noted that the judgment applied only to requests for disability accommodations related to ballots for the 2020 primary election. 

On August 27, 2020, the parties filed a joint motion to amend the judgment to allow voters submitting an application for a mail-in ballot to sign the ballot electronically if accompanied by a statement that the voter has a disability and does not have the ability to insert an electronic hand-drawn signature.

This case is now closed.

Summary Authors

Saba Khan (1/5/2023)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

SJ-2020-0588

Docket

Aug. 21, 2020

Aug. 21, 2020

Docket

SJ-2020-0588

Emergency Petition for Relief

Aug. 21, 2020

Aug. 21, 2020

Complaint
4

SJ-2020-0588

Judgment

Aug. 25, 2020

Aug. 25, 2020

Order/Opinion
6

SJ-2020-0588

Joint Motion to Amend Judgment

Aug. 27, 2020

Aug. 27, 2020

Pleading / Motion / Brief

Docket

Last updated Aug. 30, 2023, 1:26 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Massachusetts

Case Type(s):

Disability Rights

Election/Voting Rights

Key Dates

Filing Date: Aug. 21, 2020

Closing Date: Sept. 1, 2020

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Bay State Council of the Blind, the Boston Center for Independent Living, and six individual Massachusetts voters with disabilities.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Non-profit NON-religious organization

Attorney Organizations:

NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Commonwealth of Massachusetts, State

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.

State law

State Anti-Discrimination Law

Available Documents:

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Issues

Disability and Disability Rights:

disability, unspecified

Discrimination Basis:

Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)

Voting:

Voting: General & Misc.

Voting: Physical/Effective Access