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NY LTTE: Making It Possible For All To Vote

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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-22-10 08:10 PM
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NY LTTE: Making It Possible For All To Vote

MY VIEW: Making it Possible for All to Vote

By Virginia Martin
Democratic Commissioner
Board of Elections
Columbia County

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Thank you for your May 7th article about the Board of Elections' efforts to make voting accessible to everyone in this county, including those with disabilities. Your reporter really captured the essence of the accessibility issue that we are struggling with in Columbia County.

Commissioner Jason Nastke and I want to make sure that credit is given where credit is due. We really do have great people here, and great organizations working with us. Twenty amazing individuals stepped forward last summer to learn the issues surrounding the challenges faced by people with disabilities when they try to vote privately and individually at their poll sitewhich we hope everyone can agree is not only their right to do but our responsibility to ensure. These 20 Democrats and Republicans joined us as Poll Site Specialists, and in their training they exhibited their willingness to help and their acknowledgment of the civil-rights gap that must be addressed. Our own HAVA (Help America Vote Act) Specialists, Rhonda Granger and Bill VanAlstyne, to whom the Poll Site Specialists report, accepted the challenge of implementing a new program that covered very uncharted territory. Our consultant, Susan Cohen of Voting Access Solutions, energized us all and directed us with expertise that we surely lacked. Our own Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley, located here in Hudson, which had done crucial work two years ago to conduct the initial surveys of poll sites that would help bring our sites well down the road to accessibility, continued with us last year as an integral part of our new program's outreach, along with organizations like COARC and Camphill Village.

To repeat a point made by Project HAVA's Benlisa and Wyckoff: What's the value of going through the effort of obtaining accessible voting machines and training election workers to be competent and sensitive in their use if the people that would use them can't even get in the door?

The road to accessibility continues to be long and winding. And, as so often happens, we've had a little attrition amongst our Poll Site Specialists, and here we make a plea for individuals throughout the county to consider joining this important team.

Also, we'd like to follow up on Project HAVA's suggestion that we try to engage the broader community as we work to address accessibility. While most of the issues at the poll sites can be rectified with relatively minor actions, there are several across the county that will require real work and some serious resources. In some cases, municipal sites are involved. Will individuals or organizationswho could help do the work or provide the materialsstep up to the plate to eliminate their own communities' barriers to access? We hope our work in the elections arena will jump-start conversations at the local level, perhaps at town board meetings, which will help make our communities into places where no one is denied entry just because they use a wheelchair or a walker or a cane, or have a sight impairment. Each of us should bear in mind that we, too, may be in that position someday, if not tomorrow.


The article that the letter refers to:
County is ahead of the curve with HAVA work

DU Discussion:
New York's "most proactive county in HAVA implementation" wants to keep lever voting system

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