Imagine visiting your polling place on Election Day and discovering there is no parking, the sidewalk is blocked, and the door is locked. Yet, despite all this, you manage to get into the building only to find out the poll workers do not speak your language and the voting machine is out of reach.
For some of us this seems like a nightmare, but for the nearly one in five people with a disability in the United States, this is their reality when casting a ballot. A voter with a disability faces a nearly 75 percent chance that he or she will not be able to use the assigned polling precinct to vote. Democracy works best when everyone has equal opportunity to participate.
In 2012, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive to all county boards of elections (BOEs) to use a checklist to ensure polling place accessibility. In 2013, a new Americans with Disabilities checklist was issued, but there was no new directive telling BOEs to use this updated checklist before the gubernatorial election.
There are 54 positive changes between the 2012 and 2013 checklists that greatly enhance accessibility, including access to parking spaces, approach areas, elevators, lifts, and doorways. Improvements to the 2013 checklist were substantial enough to cause Franklin County, Ohio’s second most populous county, to relocate more than 15 percent of their polling places because they no longer complied with the new standards. If such an alarming number of barriers were encountered in Franklin County, how many are present but unacknowledged in other parts of the state?
In August, the ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to Secretary Husted and spoke with his staff to discuss the need for a new directive instructing all BOEs to assess polling locations with the new checklist before the November election. On September 19, Secretary Husted issued a directive saying just that!
In addition to our advocacy ensuring polling place accessibility, the ACLU of Ohio has created a Let Me Vote card that outlines voting rights for Ohioans with disabilities.
Before you vote, it’s important to keep in mind the following:
- If you have a guardian or a mental disability, you can still vote.
- You must bring identification with your name and address to vote. You could bring a state ID, current utility or cell phone bill, bank statement, paycheck, or social security assistance letter.
- You can bring anyone to help you at the polls, with a few exceptions: The person cannot be your employer or employer’s agent, from your labor union, or a candidate appearing on the ballot.
- You can also ask for help from the poll workers where you vote.
Remember that Election Day is Tuesday, November 4. You MUST register by Monday, October 6. Take advantage of early voting opportunities.
Questions about voting? Visit ACLU of Ohio’s Vote Center.