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Columbia, South Carolina ----- United States Attorney Beth Drake announced today a settlement with the Richland County Board of Elections & Voter Registration to ensure accessibility of polling sites to persons with disabilities.
The agreement requires the Richland County Board of Elections and Voter Registration (Board) to ensure that every polling site is accessible to persons with disabilities by the 2018 primary election. The Richland County Board of Elections and Voter Registration will provide training to all precinct coordinators on how to install and maintain any temporary equipment and accessibility items, such as wheelchair ramps, accessible parking or the placement of mats over thresholds. On Election Day and during early-voting periods, the Richland County Board of Elections and Voter Registration must maintain in working order all facilities and equipment, including lifts, elevators and ramps, necessary to make polling sites accessible to individuals with disabilities.
The Richland County Board of Elections and Voter Registration cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to voluntarily reach the settlement agreement, which became effective on May 22, 2017, eliminating the need for a lawsuit.
“The right of individuals to participate in our democratic system of government includes full and equal access to polling sites,” said U.S. Attorney Drake. “This agreement represents an important step toward guaranteeing voting access to all of our citizens.”
In 2016, the Richland County Board of Elections and Voter Registration oversaw 150 polling sites. Pursuant to the ADA, all polling places must be accessible to voters with disabilities. In the June 2016 primary elections, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Department of Justice reviewed more than 50 polling places in Richland County and concluded that many have architectural barriers that make them inaccessible to voters who use wheelchairs or have mobility impairments, or voters who are blind or have vision impairments.
In response to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s initial findings, the Richland County Board of Elections and Voter Registration expressed its commitment to making all polling locations accessible to voters with disabilities. The Board made some improvements by the November 2016 election, and continued to make improvements prior to the Settlement Agreement becoming finalized.
Title II of the ADA prohibits public entities, such as the Richland County Board of Elections and Voter Registration, 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 learn more about the ADA and other laws protecting the rights of voters with disabilities, log on to www.ada.gov/ta-pubs-pg2.htm or call the Justice Department's toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TDD).
Rob Sneed (803) 929-3000