The Disabilities Law Program of Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. will be helping to enforce the Help America Vote Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act on Election Day, Nov. 2.
“We want to ensure that people with disabilities have full participation in the election process, including accessing polling places so they can vote independently and privately,” said Laura J. Waterland Esq., senior staff attorney with the DLP.
According to a recent Office of Management and Budget study, in the 2008 general election, participation for voters with disabilities lagged nearly 10% behind voters without disabilities. The DLP hopes to shrink that discrepancy by eliminating barriers to polling places.
On Election Day, CLASI staff and Widener Law School student volunteers will be out statewide monitoring polling places for accessibility for people with disabilities.
Individuals with disabilities who encounter problems with access at their polling places should bring these barriers to the attention of poll workers, their county Board of Election, and the DLP at 302-575-0690, 674-8500 in Kent County; 302-575-0696 in New Castle County; and 302-856-3742 in Sussex County.
Voters should be aware of their right to take a person of their choice into the voting booth should they require assistance in voting. They also may ask for assistance from official poll workers. People with cognitive impairments may vote, even if they have a guardian, under most circumstances. Voters with low vision or other impairments can utilize the ADAM modem on voting machines, which allows voters to listen to rather than read the ballot.
Poll workers will make every effort to identify the correct polling place for voters who may have gone to the wrong polling place. However, voters also should be aware of their right to cast a provisional ballot in federal elections, should the polling place refuse to allow them to vote.
The DLP has been working with election officers to improve accessibility. DLP staff has conducted spot checks statewide during several prior elections, and has brought deficiencies to the attention of all three county Boards of Elections. DLP staff found barriers such as lack of designated accessible parking, sloping and eroded parking spaces and walkways, and unmarked accessible entrances. The Delaware Elections Commissioner’s Office and the county Boards of Elections have made many improvements to non-public polling places such as churches and fire halls. However, work is still needed to improve accessibility of public sites.
For more information about the DLP, visit www.declasi.org.