Yesterday the Justice Department published updated guidance on the accessibility of polling places under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The publication, “ADA Checklist for Polling Places,” aims to help state and local government election officials, poll workers and voters better understand the basic accessibility features necessary to allow voters with mobility and vision disabilities to access their polling place.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division works vigorously to protect the right of all eligible voters to participate in our democracy. Unfortunately, exclusions and barriers to the ballot box, including inaccessible polling places, still exist for voters with disabilities. In 2008, GAO reported that across the United States, only 27% of polling places were accessible to voters with disabilities during the presidential election. The revised ADA Checklist for Polling Places provides helpful guidance to election officials so they can improve polling place accessibility and provide voters with disabilities the same opportunities as other voters to cast their ballots at polling places, alongside their neighbors and friends.
Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to ensure that people with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote. With respect to polling places, counties and cities are required to select and use polling places that are physically accessible to people with a variety of disabilities, such as those who use wheelchairs, scooters or other devices; those who have difficulty walking or using stairs; or those who are blind or have vision loss.
In 2010, the department published revised ADA regulations, including the Standards for Accessible Design. The ADA Checklist for Polling Places incorporates these changes. The checklist includes a discussion on polling place accessibility with a focus on those areas of a facility that may be used as a polling place on election day; a list of tools, helpful tips and temporary remedies for making polling places accessible; and a revised checklist formatted as a stand-alone survey document that may be used by election officials to assess the accessibility of their polling places.
The updated checklist is a component of the department’s efforts to secure equal voting rights for people with disabilities. Last year, the Civil Rights Division, partnering with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the nation, launched the ADA Voting Initiative to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process, including in this year’s presidential elections. The ADA Voting Initiative covers all aspects of voting, from voter registration to casting ballots at neighborhood polling places. U.S. Attorneys’ Offices may investigate the physical accessibility of local polling places, review state and local voting policies and procedures impacting voters with disabilities and assess whether actions taken by officials and others deny voters with disabilities the full and equal exercise of their voting rights.
The Civil Rights Division has published additional technical assistance publications about federal laws that protect the rights of voters with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act. The publication, “The Americans with Disabilities Act and Other Federal Laws Protecting the Rights of Voters with Disabilities,” is intended to help election officials, poll workers and voters understand how the ADA and other federal laws ensure equality in the voting process for people with disabilities. A second document, “Solutions for Five Common ADA Access Problems at Polling Places,” discusses physical barriers to access to voters with disabilities in five commonly found areas at polling places and offers solutions for addressing them.
To view the ADA Checklist for Polling Places, visit https://www.ada.gov/votingchecklist.htm.
To learn more about the ADA and other laws protecting the rights of voters with disabilities, visit www.ada.gov/ta-pubs-pg2.htm. Those interested in finding out more about the ADA can call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TDD), or access the ADA website at www.ada.gov.