U.S. accuses L.A. County of violating ADA at voting locations

A voting location in Los Angeles
The U.S. Department of Justice has accused Los Angeles County of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and risking disenfranchising voters.
(Associated Press)
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The U.S. Department of Justice has accused Los Angeles County of repeatedly failing to ensure that voters with disabilities can get into polling places and vote centers and cast their ballot during recent elections.

In a federal complaint filed Thursday, the department alleged the county routinely violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and risked disenfranchising Angelenos with vision and mobility disabilities.

Since 2016, the DOJ has regularly surveyed county voting locations and ballot drop boxes during elections, according to the lawsuit. Each time, it said it found places that don’t meet standards set by the ADA.


Prosecutors said that even though federal officials brought shortcomings to the county’s attention, local officials failed to fix them, which repeatedly hampered residents’ ability to vote. The alleged problems include a lack of accessible parking for vans and steep ramps without handrails.

“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,” said U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada 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 cites one voter who uses a wheelchair — referred to only as “D.G.” — who said she struggled to access a polling place located at a Chatsworth senior facility during the August 2019 special election.

“During that entire voting process, no polling staff or official from that polling place ever assisted D.G. in curbside voting,” the lawsuit said. “D.G. reported feeling dismayed and frustrated by her treatment at the polling place and that she felt as if she had lost her freedom to vote privately and independently like everyone else.”

The department asked for a court order requiring the county to comply with the ADA and develop a plan to fix the violations within a month.


The county, which typically declines to comment on ongoing lawsuits, released a statement saying it disputes the allegations and has worked with voters with disabilities to design the county’s voting services.

County officials said they’d been working with the DOJ since last month to address the shortcomings and avoid a lawsuit, but that the discussions were “abruptly abandoned.”

“I am disheartened by this action despite our good faith efforts to reach agreement on a reasonable settlement. The assertions made in the media release do not reflect the voting model or service delivery provided by Los Angeles County,” said Dean Logan, the county’s registrar-recorder, in a statement. “That said, we remain committed to addressing accessibility issues in an equitable and effective manner.”