… A new analysis of voter accessibility data by the disability advocacy group Ruderman Family Foundation reveals that impediments to entering polling locations, difficulty obtaining absentee ballots, inadequate training of poll workers, a lack of privacy while voting, among other problems, plague an estimated more than 3 million eligible voters with disabilities. If unaddressed, advocates say, these issues could impact nearly a quarter of voters this fall. In a white paper released by the foundation on Sept. 26, experts’ analysis of voter data suggests that as many as 10% of people with disabilities report difficulties trying to register to vote or obtain an absentee ballot, which eliminate the need to travel to polling locations. “It is fundamentally unfair for 20% of the American voting population to face barriers to a full and fair participation in their right to cast a vote,” Jay Ruderman, president of the foundation, said in a press release. “America should and can do better to include people with disabilities in our elections.”
This problem typically arises during presidential election years, even though there are laws requiring accessible voter services for people who use wheelchairs, people with seeing and hearing impairments and those with mental illness. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, historic federal legislation that established the right of poll access for people with physical or mental disabilities, among other anti-discrimination protections, laid the groundwork for the Help America Vote Act.
That measure, enacted in 2002, brought about the widespread use of electronic voting machines to guarantee that voters with disabilities had a private and independent balloting experience.
But according to the foundation’s white paper, data from the 2012 presidential election show that 30% of voters with disabilities who cast ballots reported problems doing so, compared to 8% of all other voters. In 2008, 73% of polling stations had a potential impediment to voting for people with disabilities. Approximately 27% of U.S. states can bar people with mental or developmental disabilities from casting ballots. “All in all, it is projected that over 3 million people with disabilities are unable to vote in U.S. presidential elections simply because they have a disability,” read a press statement released with the white paper.