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20th Anniversary of the ADA Calls for Increased Accessibility to the Ballot

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demodonkey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-26-10 06:36 PM
Original message
20th Anniversary of the ADA Calls for Increased Accessibility to the Ballot
Edited on Mon Jul-26-10 06:52 PM by demodonkey

20th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act
Calls for Increased Accessibility to the Ballot

By Marybeth Kuznik, Founder and Executive Director, VotePA

July 26, 2010 -- Twenty years ago today, the Americans With Disabilities Act was enacted and the lives of millions of people changed for the better. Today we recognize how the ADA provided for curb cuts, ramps for wheelchairs, accessible parking spaces, closed captioning broadcasts, and many other familiar accommodations. One of the most important accomplishments of the Americans With Disabilities Act is that it made civil rights for the disabled the law of our land. The ADA has made full participation much more possible for anyone dealing with one or more of the many forms of disability that are a part of human life.

But even today, after twenty years of this law and its great strides and improvement, barriers and closed doors do remain for people living with disabilities.

Unfortunately one of the areas that still need improvement is voting. Many polling places are still inaccessible to people using wheelchairs or other aids. People in hospitals or other institutions often don't get to vote, and those with cognitive or mental disabilities are sometimes challenged or denied their right to participation if and when they do get to the polls.

Perhaps the saddest problem of all is that many of our voting systems, the very tools we provide for casting a ballot, still produce a formidable barrier to voting by people with disabilities. This situation is tragic because HAVA, the Help America Vote Act of 2002, promised to extend the spirit of the ADA and clearly required voting systems that make voting private and independent for people with disabilities.

Under HAVA, billions of dollars were spent on so-called accessible election equipment that in many cases turned out to be a cruel sham. Voting machines were sold as accessible but in actual use these machines completely deny access to people with many common conditions. In some cases these poorly-designed voting machines were even labeled "ADA Compliant."

Some of the so-called accessible voting machines provided under the Help America Vote Act lack simple accommodations such as a binary switch to allow use of sip and puff and other devices for people with mobility or motor control problems. Some of these voting machines provide audio ballots for the visually impaired that are so slow and difficult to use, voting a simple ballot can take an hour or more. In one famous case the audio instructions for one of these machines advised blind voters to push the "yellow button" to cast a ballot.

Under the Help America Vote Act my own county chose a Direct Recording Electronic touchscreen mounted on a stand. My mother, who is a stroke survivor, cannot get her wheelchair close enough our so-called ADA-accessible machine to reach the entire touchscreen or to push the VOTE button. She has to have another person select her choices and cast her ballot for her. After nearly thirty years as a pollworker and still serving as Inspector of Elections in our precinct, my mother finds it embarrassing that she has to be helped to vote.

This is sad and totally avoidable, because technology exists that can do much better.

On this historic 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, VotePA urges every state and every county to adopt voting systems that are secure, auditable, recountable, and fully accessible to people with a wide variety of disabilities. The great promise of the ADA will never be completely achieved until the act of voting -- casting a ballot and having that ballot equally and accurately counted -- is truly accessible to all.


http://www.VotePA.us/newsarchive/2010/Anniversary_ADA7-...
OR
http://www.facebook.com/VotePA


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Lugnut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-27-10 12:23 AM
Response to Original message
1. I wish I could rec this a thousand times. n/t
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diva77 Donating Member (999 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-27-10 12:32 AM
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2. From the viewpoint of a disabled family member who voted absentee for years
(the last 3 decades) the issue of wanting the polling place to provide accessible machines never came up. Absentee ballots were the solution.

There was never any feeling of injustice with the absentee ballots. There was the feeling of being accommodated because special circumstances were required in order to vote absentee.

HAVA, in facilitating the widespread use of computerized "voting" systems, is to voting what Katrina and BP are to the Gulf Coast.





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demodonkey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-27-10 11:47 PM
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4. My mother, who is still an active Inspector of Elections, does not want to vote absentee.

She does not want to give her Inspector position up, and so she wants to vote in her own polling place where she is working on election day.

She could vote privately and independently on a paper ballot (including an opscan paper ballot) at the poll, but (as I said in the article) from her wheelchair she cannot reach the touchscreen of the so-called accessible DRE our county purchased under HAVA. She has to be an assisted voter which as an Inspector of Elections she finds very embarrassing.


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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-10 12:39 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. That's fine, but my sense is she's in the minority among voters with accessibilty needs.
To begin with, given the opportunity most voters prefer absentee voting. I don't imagine the sentiment much different for the disabilities community.

Still, I'm OK with a ballot marker per polling site.

Proportion of the population using wheelchairs
http://dsc.ucsf.edu/publication.php

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demodonkey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-10 12:59 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. I'm not so sure you are right, Wilms...
Edited on Wed Jul-28-10 12:59 AM by demodonkey

...I am not so sure that "most" voters in general prefer absentee as you say. Look at states with "no excuse" absentee and you will see that a lot of voters (disabled or not) still prefer to come out to the polls.

There are a lot of people with disabilities who take the act of coming to the polls and voting very seriously. I know of at least four or five voters in my own poll who have serious disabilities and never miss an election.

I do know this -- the disability community as a whole really saw HAVA as a landmark opportunity. Unfortunately, they 'wuz had' especially with the DREs.

Finally, please be aware that a lot of disabled voters CAN use a mainstream paper ballot, and using a wheelchair does not automatically mean one needs special equipment to vote. For example my mother can write just fine when her wheelchair is next to an appropriate table; in fact as Inspector she signs and organizes the paperwork for our precinct. She wouldn't need a ballot marker to vote on a paper ballot, but she can't use the DREs.

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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-10 01:16 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. I understand and agree with most of that.
No excuse absentee runs at over 50% in California, however.

Representative?

NY, again, had less than 100 votes, statewide, marked with a BMD.

A wider doorway? By all means!
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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-27-10 01:11 AM
Response to Original message
3. Like many well-intentioned laws, the ADA is abused by lobbyist and vendors.
Edited on Tue Jul-27-10 01:14 AM by Wilms
As the article points out...what many people need are accessible polling places. When election boards do accommodate that, it's often by closing polling places and opening super-precincts. How does that enhance accessibility?

This would also explain the experience in NY where statewide there where merely dozens of voters using Ballot Markers...and some possibly by poll workers only to help randomize votes with the one cast by a single voter with special needs using the machine.

Asking the taxpayers to foot that kind of bill is, frankly, selfish. Plenty of people with disabilities would decry that.

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