Voting Accessibility in 2019

By Steph Ryde

The right to vote has always been something that I have taken for granted. As an able bodied, white, cis woman I have never had an issue requesting or casting my ballot.  I admit that I was shocked and surprised as I researched this topic. How is it that in 2016 137 polling places were reported as having an impediment restricting people with disabilities from voting? How is it that people with disabilities made the trip to the polls only to find the accessible machines turned off, missing pieces, broken or altogether missing? How it is that polling places are still located in buildings that are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, up large hills or inaccessible by public transport? To me, this is blatant voter suppression and it doesn’t end there. 

According to a Pew Trusts study in 2017, ½ of all Americans cast their ballot on paper with many polling places moving to paper ballots due to cyber security concerns.  While many able bodied people wouldn’t think twice about picking up a pen, this can be a huge barrier to someone with limited mobility.  

It would be amiss not to mention invisible and mental disabilities.  Washington DC found that individuals were being intimidated at the polls by being asked if they ‘really needed to use the accessible machines’.  To combat this, they trained their poll workers to ask everyone voting if they would prefer to vote on paper or using the machine which has increased turnout of individuals with disabilities by 2% in 2018.  In regards to people with mental disabilities, 11 states still have outdated and vague regulations that allow the court to bar individuals from voting who are deemed ‘idiots’, ‘insane persons’ or people who are under guardianship.  Regulations such as this are estimated to have barred over 32,000 people from the polls in California alone.

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