One in seven potential voters has an accessibility issue, a figure likely to grow along with our average life spans. Under federal and state law, elections officials must ensure that polling places are accessible in a number of ways. Parking lots must be within a certain distance from the polling place; corridors and halls must be sufficiently ample for wheelchairs; seats must be available for those who need them while waiting in line; and voting machines and paper ballots must be made accessible to those with vision impairments, among other requirements.
So that nothing slips through the cracks on Election Day (or during early voting), the Commission recommended that states and localities adopt management practices to ensure polling places are accessible, as required by law. Two tools to facilitate this are checklists, which elections officials responsible for polling place oversight can refer to when assessing the space for accessibility, and videos that illustrate proper practices.
All states have made some efforts under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) by using the accessibility checklist issued by the Department of Justice under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Several states have adopted more comprehensive strategies than those required by the federal government. Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Carolina, Alaska, and Colorado have produced in-depth videos on creating accessible polling places. Stand-out efforts include Pennsylvania's detailed video, which includes strategies for last-minute, on-the-day solutions to accessibility issues, and North Carolina's online photo database of all polling places that allows voters to view their route to the ballot box in a particular polling location. North Carolina and Kentucky also have helpful checklists for elections officials to use at the polling place: Kentucky has a section on "Disability Awareness Guidance" in its Precinct Election Officer's Guide, and North Carolina has some "dos and don'ts" created by a local nonprofit, as well as an accessibility survey.
Michigan has also done a comprehensive job in adopting accessibility management practices; it uses a series of helpful videos and one of the most detailed accessibility checklists among the states surveyed.
Louisiana has a comprehensive guidebook, "Informational Pamphlet for Election Day Voting," and instructive videos on the Secretary of State's website. While both provide some helpful information on how to help disabled individuals at the polls, they lack specific guidelines on ensuring the polling place is physically accessible. Arkansas' Secretary of State's office collaborated with the Arkansas Disability Rights Center (ADRC) to produce a voter demonstration video; the ADRC circulated these videos to every county in 2008. Georgia does not make available training videos or polling place accessibility checklists on its elections website; Florida posts the checklist, but not videos, on its Division of Elections' site; an accessibility poll worker video is forwarded to each county for training.
|FINDINGS BY STATE|