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Voting Access for Those With Disabilities Still Lackluster

Voting Access for Those With Disabilities Still Lackluster

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Published by ESKCSG
As the presidential primaries race towards a close, preparations are continuing to ensure that the voting process in the general election in November is as streamlined as possible. One of the major challenges still facing many states is providing equal voting access to those with disabilities according to Disaboom, the largest online community for people living with or touched by disability.
As the presidential primaries race towards a close, preparations are continuing to ensure that the voting process in the general election in November is as streamlined as possible. One of the major challenges still facing many states is providing equal voting access to those with disabilities according to Disaboom, the largest online community for people living with or touched by disability.

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Published by: ESKCSG on Jun 18, 2008
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06/14/2009

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Voting Access for Those with Disabilities Still Lackluster
 by Daniel LawtonAs the presidential primaries race towards a close, preparations are continuing to ensure that thevoting process in the general election in November is as streamlined as possible. One of themajor challenges still facing many states is providing equal voting access to those withdisabilities according to Disaboom, the largest online community for people living with or touched by disability.Signed into law in 2003, theHelp America Vote Act(HAVA) was designed to revamp adisorganized and chaotic voting system that many hold responsible for the controversysurrounding the 2000 presidential election. Provisions of the legislation include the replacementof punch cards and lever voting machines and the creation of a comprehensive electronic voter database. HAVA also mandates that each polling place have at least one voting system accessibleto those with disabilities in a manner that guarantees equal opportunity and access for all voters.The federal government has allocated billions of dollars to the states to implement these changes; but unfortunately voting accessibility problems are still widespread. The Department of Justicewas forced to sue the state of New York in 2006 due to its non-compliance with HAVA. OnFebruary 4, 2008, a court order allowed New York to use Liberty Election Systems’ touch screenvoting machines, which have been highly criticized by those with disabilities.In nearby New Jersey, an April 2007 report issued by the Department of the Public Advocaterevealed that up to 40 percent of New Jersey polling places have been inaccessible to voters withdisabilities over the last three years—a clear violation of state and federal law. The report citedseventeen polling places that consistently failed to provide adequate access to those withdisabilities. Many of the polling locations had steep stairs, no elevators, and no wheelchair accessible ramps.Problems with voting accessibility have been noted in the 2008 primary season as well.During the January 8, 2008, New Hampshire primary, many polling places had difficultycomplying with federal disability laws. According to James Fox, an attorney with theDisabilities Rights Center, “only a fraction of poll workers received training in the accessiblesystem leading up to the primary.” The majority of the problems centered on poll workers beingunable to accommodate blind voters, who are allowed to cast their votes in a booth equippedwith a telephone and a fax machine. Many of the phones in the booths didn’t work, and in othersworkers hadn’t set up the equipment properly.In addition, in the Super Tuesday primaries on February 5, 2008, only 8 of the 24 states thatvoted provided voting accommodations for those in nursing homes. The lack of accommodations available to seniors with disabilities drew criticism from disability advocates,as well as Congress. In a Senate Special Committee on Aging, Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI) andDiane Feinstein (D-CA) heard testimony about the disenfranchisement of nursing homeresidents. According to sources at the hearing, seniors with disabilities are 39 to 48 percent less

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