More than 35 million eligible voters in the U.S. — about one in six — have a disability. And in the last presidential election, almost a third of voters with disabilities reported having trouble casting their ballots — whether it was getting into the polling place, reading the ballot, or struggling with a machine. Despite some improvements, many of these voters are expected to face similar problems again this year. Ian Watlington, of the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), demonstrates why. He has cerebral palsy and needs to use a wheelchair to get up a long concrete ramp outside a church in Washington, D.C. “It is one of those ramps that everybody thinks is absolutely perfect,” he says. But as he struggles to get up it, it’s clear that it’s not perfect. Watlington says the slope is fairly steep, which means some people in wheelchairs could tip backward. At the top, he finds another problem.
New Hampshire: Federal Investigation of Concord Raises Questions About Voting Accessibility in N.H. | New Hampshire Public Radio
The federal government is investigating the City of Concord for not providing accessible voting machines for people with certain disabilities during local elections. The city may have violated federal law. Guy Woodland used his cane to find his way into a voting booth in Concord Tuesday morning. Woodland is blind. “I have a non-valid driver’s license,” he told a poll worker, “which you’re probably happy to know.” Here’s how Woodland would like to vote: on his own, with no help. As it is though, he walks into the voting booth with a poll worker. Woodland dictates his voting choices, and the poll worker, who is sworn to secrecy, fills in the bubbles. That’s despite technology – sitting on a shelf in New Hampshire – that would allow Woodland to vote without any help.
National: D.C. ranks high in ‘health of state democracies’ list. Virginia does not. | The Washington Post
The District government can lay claim to being the fourth-healthiest democracy in the country, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a left-leaning policy institute and advocacy organization. Still, the report notes, while the city government has laudable laws encouraging participation and equality in local government, it’s impossible for it to have a truly healthy democracy without having representation in Congress and full control over its local budget. The study evaluated the District’s and each state’s government in three different categories: Accessibility in the ballot, representation in state government and influence in the political system.
South Carolina: Report: Disabled voters face barriers at polls across state | The Times and Democrat
Voter registration directors throughout The T&D Region say they’re taking to heart a report released on Tuesday identifying barriers for disabled voters at South Carolina’s polls. “Unequal access for voters with disabilities continues to plague South Carolina. This is not just an issue in a few select precincts. Voters with disabilities face barriers statewide,” said Gloria Prevost, executive director of Protection & Advocacy for People with Disabilities Inc. “The state has a responsibility to uphold the fundamental right of voting access for all citizens,” she said. Last election day, P&A and volunteers completed polling place surveys at 303 polling precincts across the state during the general election. They found widespread problems.
Much ink has been spilled on the issue of setting up an independent Electoral Commission to oversee the management of elections and referenda here. Successive governments over the years have been effective at talking about it, but only the current administration is going to make it a reality. While our electoral system and the easy accessibility of politicians mean that citizens are deeply engaged with the electoral process, this isn’t necessarily matched by a sense of public confidence that the current system works. Various controversies over the years have highlighted a level of political interference in our electoral system and have only added to the further erosion of that confidence. For example, the botched €50 million e-voting machine debacle was due in no small way to the Minister of the day going on a solo run.
Through the use of voting machines that read out a ballot or allow a quadriplegic elector to vote with a “sip and puff” controller, the City of Kitchener is working to make it easier for disabled residents to exercise their democratic rights. The city evaluates each poling station for accessibility, and sets up voting stations at 16 long-term care facilities or nursing homes, even allowing people to vote from their bedside if need be. “Everybody has a fundamental right to vote,” said city clerk Christine Tarling, “and so it is our obligation — and our honour — to be able to make sure we facilitate everyone who is eligible to vote, regardless of their circumstances or their limitations.” With an aging population and about 15.5 per cent of Ontarians reporting some limits on their activity because of disability, the province has increased its requirements for municipalities to remove barriers for disabled citizens. As part of that, municipalities are expected to ensure the election is as accessible as possible.
D.C. could soon return to a September primary date for local elections, abandoning a brief and controversial experiment with holding the primaries in April. Under a bill set to be considered by the D.C. Council on Tuesday, the city’s primary election would be moved to the first Tuesday in September, effectively reversing a 2011 bill that pushed the primary date to the first Tuesday in April. That bill was passed to put D.C. in compliance with a federal law requiring 45 days between a primary and general election, to better allow military and overseas voters that chance to cast absentee ballots. It also aligned the city’s presidential and local primaries, which prior to 2012 had been held on different dates. But legislators, candidates and voters seemed to have had a hard time adjusting to the new electoral calendar, which required candidates to campaign in wintry weather and left incumbents who failed to win re-election a nine-month-long lame duck period. It also seemed to depress turnout; the April 1 D.C. primary saw less than 27 percent of registered voters actually cast ballots, a historic low for the city’s mayoral primaries. “Given the District’s unique position of having no voting members of the House of Representatives or Senate, District-wide elections have a deep impact on the lives of D.C. residents. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to maintain an electoral process that meets the needs and desires of the District’s residents while maintaining accessibility for military and overseas voters,” said a report from the Council’s Committee on Government Operations, which last week approved the measure.
Registering voters as young as 16 for a B.C. election is one of three major recommendations the province’s chief electoral officer has made to law makers. Keith Archer says in his report to legislators released Tuesday that the voting age would remain at 18 but dropping the registration age would allow electoral officials to work with schools and driver-licensing programs.
Elections Canada will make sure all polling stations in the next federal election are barrier free after reaching a settlement with a Guelph man who filed a human rights complaint. The complaint was settled through mediation and will ensure all polling stations have either a power assisted door or someone there to help anyone with accessibility issues enter the polling station. “This will be a great step forward for all persons with disabilities in Canada,” said Matt Wozenilek of Guelph. Wozenilek, who is confined to a wheelchair due to a rare neurological disease, took Elections Canada to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal after he went to cast his ballot in the 2011 federal election and found there was no automatic door opener or anyone to help him get into the polling station. A passerby eventually helped him into the polling station. Wozenilek felt this is a violation of his human rights and an act of discrimination.
Voting Blogs: Ohio SoS Channels PCEA and EAC, Directs Counties to Prepare Election Administration Plans | Election Academy
The position of Secretary of State in Ohio gets lots of attention because it is the chief election official in one of (if not the most) politically competitive states in the nation. But one aspect of the job that many people outside the state don’t realize is the sweeping authority the Secretary possesses to issue directives to county election offices on matters not explicitly covered by state law. The latest example of that power came recently when Secretary Jon Husted issued Directive 2014-16 which requires counties to produce election administration plans (EAPs) in advance of each election, starting with the 2014 general election. Husted’s directive stems in part from the settlement in LWV v. Brunner, which requires the state to produce EAPs.
A lower court judge acted properly when she ordered changes at New York City polling places to improve access for the disabled, a federal appeals court said Wednesday. The written decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan came in a lawsuit filed in 2010 on behalf of more than a half-million New York residents with mobility and vision disabilities.
People with disabilities continue to vote at a lower rate than most others. Turnout in recent decades has improved slightly since federal laws were passed to ensure people with disabilities have access to voting polls. Study after study, however, shows these voters lag behind other cohorts when it comes to registration and participation in elections. The Research Alliance for Accessible Voting used U.S. Census data to show in a survey report that there was a disability turnout gap of 7.2 percent during the 2008 presidential contest and 5.7 percent in 2012. “There has been a fair amount of progress but we still have a long way to go,” said Jim Dickson, who co-chaired a voting rights working group for the National Council on Independent Living.
Lever machines are officially back in New York City. Gov. Andrew Cuomo penned his signature to bill 7832-B on Tuesday, allowing the archaic voting machines back for the primaries and possible runoff elections this September. There was no celebratory exclamation point on the bill, as the governor has done on past bills he has been excited to sign into law. The memo attached to the bill, which passed the State Legislature last month, carried a somber tone. “I strongly believe the use of lever voting machines is a poor solution to the Board’s concerns,” Cuomo’s memo said, speaking of the City Board of Elections (BOE). “Most, if not all, of the impediments the Board has cited have less burdensome solutions, from changes in the Board’s own hand count requirements to the use of high-speed scanner offered by the Board’s vendor, to increase efficiency in completing the required testing.”
Almost all polling places had an accessible voting system during the 2008 elections, according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). That’s the good news. The bad news: At nearly half of the polling places with an accessible voting system, voters with disabilities still faced barriers to voting independently and privately. For example, some accessible voting systems were set up at voting stations inaccessible to wheelchairs; others lacked headsets for blind and visually impaired voters to hear the audio; and some accessible voting systems were on site but not placed into use.
Last week, USA Today ran a story about a study of disabled voters that suggests that as many as 3.2 million disabled voters are “sidelined” in the electoral process. The study, Sidelined or Mainstreamed? Political Participation and Attitudes of People with Disabilities in the United States by Lisa Schur of Rutgers and Meera Adya of Syracuse, finds that this large number of “sidelined” voters is the product of several different factors: lower motivation and reduced mobility plus, in some cases, the persistence of barriers at the polls. This last observation is somewhat puzzling given the apparent focus – especially since passage of the Help America Vote Act – on improving accessibility for disabled voters. And yet, as the study found, accessibility issues remain: a GAO report from 2009 found that only 27 percent of polling places nationwide had “no features that might impede access to the voting area for people with disabilities”, with another 45 percent presenting some barriers but offering curbside voting.
From now until June 29, disabled voters in California will have the opportunity, by filling out a first-of-its-kind online survey, to weigh in on whether and how well county elections officials are providing for them at the polls. Results from the survey, which was created by the Secretary of State’s office, are supposed to help determine whether elections staff need more training and whether there is a need for modified services or enhanced outreach programs for voters with disabilities.
Voting rights and procedures were debated again, as they were last fall, at a 4 p.m. Tuesday work meeting of the Monroe County Election Board. The board, staffed by Judith Smith-Ille, Jan Ellis and Monroe County Clerk Linda Robbins, discussed a motion to stop using voter precincts and instead open vote centers for the 2012 elections.
Smith-Ille, the lone Republican on the board, questioned the timing of the proposal. “I don’t want you to think I’m against vote centers. I’m not. I just don’t think 2012 is the year to do them,” Smith-Ille said. There are currently 90 voting precincts in Monroe County, Robbins said. There would be far fewer vote centers, if they were implemented, which would make the voting and vote counting processes easier, she said.
The Maldives is to introduce the electronic voting technology for the first time for the presidential election to be held in 2013, Elections Commission announced today.
In a statement, the commission said its members unanimously made the decision at a meeting held today. The commission said it would make necessary amendments to the election laws and submit the amended legislations to relevant authorities in order to introduce the electronic voting technology for the 2013 election.
Advocates for people with disabilities say a plan to give free rides to South Carolina residents who need state-approved photo identification at the state Department of Motor Vehicles is discriminatory.
The (Columbia) State reported (http://bit.ly/q3jwJe) that Gov. Nikki Haley backs the plan to provide free rides Sept. 28. A state law would require all voters to present a state-approved photo ID at the polls. The U.S. Justice Department must sign off on the law.
Minnesota: $400,000 in federal grants available to improve Minnesota polling place accessibility | Hometown Source
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie today (Tuesday, Aug. 30) announced that his office is currently seeking grant proposals from cities, townships and counties for accessibility improvements to polling places in Minnesota.
The approximately $400,000 in Federal Election Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (EAID) grants are provided through the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. Funds must be used to improve polling place accessibility for voters with disabilities and cannot be used for general improvements to structures.
Voters who’ve had difficulty in the past getting to polling stations or returning offices due to disability will have a new voting option in October. Elections Ontario will introduced home visits as a voting alternative for the Oct. 6 provincial election. By calling Elections Ontario or its local returning office, electors who qualify can have a special ballot officer come to their home so they can cast their vote.
“It one of a series of amendments to the Election Act that was aimed to make voting more accessible,” said Barbara McEwan, director of electoral events for Elections Ontario. Providing a person is eligible to vote in the Oct. 6 election, one of two criteria must be met in order to qualify for the home visit, McEwan said.
The first is that it would be impossible or unreasonable for the elector to vote at the returning office, said McEwan, which is one of the options available for those who vote by special ballot. The second is that the elector would be in need of assistance to apply to vote by special ballot because of a disability or an inability to read or write, she said.
National: Clemson University research team to lead accessible voting technology project | Clemson Newsroom
A Clemson University research team has been chosen by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to lead a national effort to make voting systems more accessible.
Juan Gilbert, a professor and chairman of the Human-Centered Computing Division in Clemson’s School of Computing, will direct a three-year, $4.5 million project funded by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to increase the accessibility of “new, existing and emerging technological solutions” in the design of voting systems.
GUYANA Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities will soon host a needs assessment workshop for persons within its target group. The President, Mr. Leon Walcott said the purpose is to assist participants to take advantage of their right to be participate in the general elections process.
The announcement follows the last week hand over to the organisaton, by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its governance enhancement project, US$18,000 to provide disabled and their families with tools to improve their ability take part in the voting.
USAID Guyana Mission Director, Ms. Carol Horning said, then, that the grant is aimed at increasing participation in elections, by different audiences, through the provision of information and encouragement of a peaceful process.
The Harrison County Commission has approved an eleventh-hour purchase of 80 new electronic voting machines. County Clerk Susan Thomas has been waiting patiently since the end of January for Commission to approve the purchase of new AutoMARK voting machines. Harrison County has been using the iVotronic machines for about five years. The state’s contract with…
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has certified the Unity 184.108.40.206 voting system by Election Systems and Software (ES&S) to the 2002 Voting System Standards. It is the fifth voting system to achieve federal certification under EAC’s Voting System Testing and Certification Program. The Unity 220.127.116.11 comprises two precinct-based optical scanners—the M100 and the DS200—and…
The visually impaired in Assam will literally feel their right to franchise with their fingers, with the Election Commission arranging for Braille-inscribed electronic voting machines for this year’s Assembly elections. Earlier, the visually challenged voters used to cast their votes guided by an escort to the press the right button on the EVM. But this…