Justice Department Files Suit Against Harris County, Texas, Over Polling Place Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities
The Justice Department filed a complaint today in the Southern District of Texas alleging that Harris County, Texas, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide accessible polling places for voters with disabilities. Many polling places in Harris County have architectural barriers – such as steep ramps and narrow doors – that make them inaccessible to voters who use wheelchairs or have mobility impairments, or voters who are blind or have vision impairments.
“Like all voters, individuals with disabilities deserve the opportunity to vote at their local polling place – where they can greet neighbors, meet candidates and discuss the issues in their community,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “But many voters with disabilities in Harris County lack equal access to this basic and most fundamental right. Our lawsuit seeks to safeguard the right to vote and fulfill the ADA’s promise of equal opportunity for people with disabilities.”
“Access to voting for all eligible citizens is a priority in this district, partially evidenced by the recently created Civil – Civil Rights Section within our office,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas. “This division civilly enforces federal civil rights laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act, among many others. We will continue to work with the Department of Justice and investigate and remedy such alleged violations to ensure all U.S. citizens are treated fairly and equally.”
The lawsuit seeks a court order that would require accessibility improvements to polling places in all future elections, training for poll workers to implement and maintain accessibility features at polling places as well as changes to the county’s polling place site selection process to ensure accessibility.
Title II of the ADA prohibits public entities, such as Harris County, from discriminating against people with disabilities in their programs, services and activities. With respect to polling places, public entities are required to select and use polling places that are accessible. To read the department’s findings regarding Harris County’s polling places, see https://www.ada.gov/harris_county_lof.htm. To learn more about ADA requirements for polling place accessibility or 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 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.