When Richland County voter Dori Tempio went to cast her ballot in November’s library referendum, a poll worker held the voting machine on her lap. She asked for privacy. He turned his head. “The person could see what I was voting,” said Tempio, 43, who uses a wheelchair. “Other people walking by could see what I was voting. … That makes you somewhat uncomfortable.” Tempio said she considers voting to be a sacred right; she has voted in every election since she turned 18. But a survey of Richland County precincts by Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc., found many residents with disabilities faced barriers when trying to exercise their right to vote Nov. 5. The survey identified a lack of accessible ballots as the top issue, affecting 63 percent of Richland County precincts.
A lack of handicapped parking spaces, poor signage, a lack of poll workers at curbside and no machines provided for the visually impaired were among the issues cited in the report released Monday.
While it’s a statewide problem, the county shares responsibility for training poll workers.
For its first survey of Richland County, Protection and Advocacy visited 69 of the 73 precincts.
“Voting isn’t a right, it’s the right – it’s the right that everybody should have, and it’s something people with disabilities don’t always have,” said Vicki McGahee, state coordinator for Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access.