It started off as a routine inquiry from a disability rights group in Miami over access to polling stations during an election. What followed was an angry dispute in which election officials were accused of trying to discourage voters from exercising their democratic rights. The “restroom row” in Miami-Dade county is symptomatic of a raft of political and legal battles being carried out across the country as states across the US pass new laws making it harder to vote. These laws are being challenged by critics who say they are aimed primarily at the poor, blacks and Hispanics who are more likely to vote Democrat. … The latest spat started when Marc Dubin, Director of Advocacy at the Center for Independent Living of South Florida, asked for disabled toilets to be made available at all polling stations. “I was not looking at it from the point of voter suppression, but from the point of view of voters with special needs,” he said. At the best of times Miami’s swamp-like climate is pretty uncomfortable and during the 2012 election, people were queuing for as long as six hours to cast a vote. To put it mildly, he was rather surprised at the email he received from John Mendez, Miami-Dade’s Deputy Election Supervisor.
“Please note State statute does not mandate that the rest rooms in the polling location be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.
“As we discussed at the meeting in order to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not treated unfairly, the use of rest rooms by the Voters is not allowed on election day.”
Miami-Dade has since backtracked on the policy, which opponents said would have discouraged voters in the poorest polling areas, but Mendez remains in post.