United States Attorney’s Office Conducts Onsite Review of Various Polling Locations on Primary Day to Ensure Access By Disabled Americans
Locations In Albany and Onondaga Counties Visited
ALBANY, NEW YORK – United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian announced today that his office’s Civil Division conducted a review of polling locations in Albany and Onondaga Counties to determine whether the polling places comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
"The right to vote is one of the most valuable rights protected by our Constitution, but that right is meaningless if there are physical barriers that prevent people from casting their ballot," said U.S. Attorney Hartunian. "Protecting the rights of persons with disabilities is a major focus of my office’s civil rights work, and my office will continue to vigorously ensure compliance with the ADA in the Northern District of New York."
The U.S. Attorney’s Office selected locations for review to ensure that they are accessible to the large numbers of residents who are expected to vote at these polling locations during the Presidential primary election. In a study following the previous Presidential election, the Government Accountability Office found that only 27% of polling places had no potential impediments to access by people with disabilities, meaning 73% of polling locations contained architectural barriers to voting. This initiative is being conducted in accordance with the Department of Justice’s statutory responsibility to review compliance with federal law and not in response to any specific complaint against any of the polling locations.
Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by the owners and operators of places of public accommodation, including polling locations, and protects the right to participate in state and local government programs and services. The U.S. Attorney’s Office periodically undertakes ADA compliance reviews to ensure equal access for people with disabilities.
As part of its ADA compliance review, attorneys, architects, and staff from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice surveyed 35 polling places in Albany and Onondaga Counties. If these site visits revealed that a particular polling location is not in compliance with the ADA, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will notify the appropriate state and local official of the violation and will provide a timeframe to correct the issue(s). The goal is to ensure that all polling locations are fully compliant in time for the Presidential election on Nov. 8, 2016.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office encourages affected citizens to report ADA violations at polling locations. Complaints concerning locations in the Northern District of New York may be submitted via the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Civil Rights Hotline at (518) 618-1619 or by completing the U.S. Attorney’s written civil rights complaint form, which may be found at www.justice.gov/usao-ndny/contact-us/Civil%20Rights.