Vote law funds cut for access
Feb. 25, 2003 -- When Pres. Bush signed the omnibus spending bill on Feb. 21, The Help America Vote Act had lost a fourth of its funding; the $1.5 billion approved by congressional conferees was less than three-fourths of the $2 billion the bill originally authorized.
"Funding for mobility access was cut from $50 million to $13 million," says Jim Dickson of the American Association of Persons with Disabilities.
"Early money" -- $650 million of it -- will be sent to the states in two to six weeks, says Dickson. "Each state will receive at least $5 million for the general improvement of elections plus an additional payment to replace punch card and lever machines. An additional $833 million is available for the purchase of accessible voting machines in development of a statewide voter registration database."
The funds cannot be applied, however, until the state has approved an implementation plan in a public process. "The disability community must be represented on the state planning body," says Dickson.AAPD's website provides a set of recommendations.
Reporters can reach Jim Dickson at
Disability Group Commends Congress on Vote Bill
Oct. 29, 2002 -- As President Bush signed the Martin Luther King Jr. Equal Protection of Voting Rights Act of 2002 this morning, the National Organization on Disability commended Congress for the law, noting that it requires at least one voting machine that is accessible to people with disabilities at each polling place and earmarks $100 million for creating polling place access for voters with disabilities. The new law also funds state protection and advocacy systems' work to help individuals register to vote, access polling places, and cast votes.
But the bill will will only succeed if effectively enforced, said N.O.D. President Alan A. Reich. "The technology now exists that makes full accessibility possible, and therefore we should be able to vote in the same place and on the same day as everyone else," said Reich, who has used a wheelchair since an accident 40 years ago.
Election Reform Law Still Has Problems, Say Advocates
Oct. 17, 2002 -- Congress has passed a bill overhauling the nation's voting system, but disability groups have reservations about its provisions.
The new law contains the first major changes to the voting process since 1965.
It requires states to devise "uniform and non-discriminatory standards" for counting ballots, and would would give federal funds to states to create computerized voter registration lists, modernize their voting systems, replace antiquated machines, educate poll workers, and ensure access to people with disabilities -- by 2004, at least one polling machine in each voting precinct would have to be be accessible to disabled persons, ensuring that people who are blind or who have other physical disabilties could cast ballots privately and independently. First-time voters registering by mail would have to present identification when they vote.
"The legislation has serious flaws," says the American ASsocition of People with Disabilities. AAPD and other groups are concerned that enforcement mechanisms in the bill -- especially for the provision of access to persons with disabiltiy -- are too weak. "We have learned from other disability laws that enforcement is necessary to translate good policy into real access," says AAPD.
The compromise worked out by the House and Senate erects "a set of new barriers to voter registration that will seriously limit the participation of the country's poorest citizens with disabilities, particularly Americans with disabilities who are unable to leave their residences and those with cognitive or psychiatric disabilities," the group adds. "The identification requirements as written, in an effort to prevent fraud, will make it extremely difficult for the 3.5 million Americans with disabilities who do not have drivers' licenses or non-driving identification to vote."
The bill is only the latest in a series of legislative efforts to ensure access to the polls for people with disabilities. The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-435) was also supposed to ensure access. "Yet at the last oversight hearing in 1994, 10 years after enactment, the Federal Elections Committee reported that about 14 percent, or 20,000, of polls nationwide were inaccessible," says the Paralyzed Veterans of America. "Since the 1994 report, FEC has done little to monitor or educate jurisdictions on their responsibility under the Act."Read "Accessibility In The Electoral Process" -- position statement of Paralyzed Veterans of America Read "AAPD Statement on Election Reform Compromise" from the American Association of People with Disabilities Read "Polling sites remain inaccessible"
Kay Schriner and Douglas Kruse have conducted a number of studies about voting access and persons with disabilities.
Kay Schriner, Ph.D., Department of Political Science
The Trace R&D Center was formed in 1971 to address the communication needs of people who are nonspeaking and have severe disabilities. Its director is Gregg Vanderheiden.
Trace Research and Development Center
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The following sites contain information that may be of interest. Please bear in mind that the information at these sites is not controlled by the Center for An Accessible society. Links to these sites do not imply that the Center supports either the organizations or the views presented.
The Project on Disability Politics at the University of Arkansas looks at political participation of people with disabilities, voting rights laws affecting people with disabilities and disability in American campaigns and elections.