A report to the Election Assistance Commission found that, in 2020, people with disabilities encountered difficulties voting at double the rate compared to people without disabilities
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Committee on Rules and Administration with oversight over federal elections, and Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, reintroduced the Accessible Voting Act, legislation to remove barriers to voting for seniors and people with disabilities. This legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD).
A study by the Government Accountability Office found that combined deficiencies in architectural and voting booth access resulted in only 17 percent of polling places being fully accessible in 2016. The Accessible Voting Act would make polling places and voting systems more accessible, expand options for casting a ballot in federal elections, and establish an Office of Accessibility within the Election Assistance Commission, dedicated to overseeing and supporting state efforts to make voting more accessible.
“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, but exercising that right is not possible for too many Americans. Inaccessible polling places and voting booths, limited access to transportation, insufficient options for casting ballots, and inaccessible voter information websites are all obstacles to voting for millions of Americans,” Senator Klobuchar said. “The Accessible Voting Act would help ensure that we remove barriers to voting for citizens with disabilities, the elderly, Native Americans, and those with limited English proficiency. Our democracy works best when all citizens can make their voices heard at the ballot box.”
“The right to vote is one of the fundamental pillars of American democracy. That right is jeopardized when seniors and people with disabilities are pushed to the margins by barriers that prevent or make it hard for them to cast their ballots,” Senator Casey said. “The Accessible Voting Act would remove these barriers and support the ongoing efforts by state and local agencies to make voting a truly equitable and accessible process.”
“The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy, but too often Americans face unnecessary barriers to accessing the ballot box,” said Rep. Scanlon. “When it comes to voting rights, older Americans and Americans with disabilities are frequently overlooked. The Accessible Voting Act will support states in the important work of improving voter accessibility, and make it easier for older Americans and people with disabilities to get voting information, request mail-in ballots, and access voter registration and absentee ballot applications. We must ensure that every eligible American can exercise their right to vote without undue burden.”
“The Accessible Voting Act is absolutely essential for the 14 million people living with disabilities, for the quarter of the population that is now over age 65, for Native Americans and Alaska Natives, indigenous peoples, and others who have traditionally faced accessibility obstacles, language barriers, and discrimination within our voting system,” said Rep. Raskin. “I’m proud our legislation will address these systemic deficiencies so we can make sure everyone is able to vote regardless of a disability, where you live, or what language you speak.”
“No one should be denied the right to vote due to disability, age, or minority status. The Accessible Voting Act would expand voting access and establish new protections for millions of Americans who encounter persistent and widespread barriers to exercising their right to vote privately and independently, including voters with disabilities and older Americans. Our democracy works best when every eligible voter can cast their ballot and have their votes counted. The Accessible Voting Act can get us closer to that goal,” said Chris Anders, Director of the ACLU’s Democracy Division.
“Despite existing federal law protecting the rights of people with disabilities, far too often, these rights are overlooked and forgotten in our electoral process. The Accessible Voting Act seeks to bolster the protections for voters with disabilities, as established by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Help America Vote Act, and ensure equitable access to every American voter in our democracy for years to come,” said Curt Decker, executive director, National Disability Rights Network.
The Accessible Voting Act would also:
- Create a national resource center on accessible voting to conduct cultural competency trainings for election officials and poll workers;
- Establish a new state grant program for the Office of Accessibility to provide dedicated funding to improve accessibility to voting; and
- Provide voting information and resources through accessible websites so voters know how to register to vote and cast a ballot.
Read more about the Accessible Voting Act here.
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