VOTING RIGHTS AND ACCESSIBILITY SAFEGUARDS FOR NY VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES

Election administration is a logistical challenge. Voting rights advocates and poll watchers should take particular care to ensure that voting rights for people with disabilities are safeguarded. BOE practices designed for the general public may disproportionately impact these voters, so extra attention must be paid to ensure they can exercise their rights. If a polling place is inaccessible or a BOE procedure/practice creates a hardship, please inform the poll site coordinator or your County Board of Elections. You can also file an incident report with our voter hotline: 866-NYDLC-01, or contact the NYS Attorney General's office. Consider the following when you arrive your poll site:  

General Disability Awareness:

  1. Poll workers/poll watchers should never assume a voter needs assistance. If voter is assisted by an aide, make eye contact/speak to voter, not the aide; Keep poll site and paths free of clutter, barriers, or bottlenecks (maintain accessibility).

  2. Any voter may use the Ballot Marking Device and no voter is required to do so.

Make sure the following are present at all polling places in New York State:

  1. A sign reading “Accessible Entrance Located” at an inaccessible entrance, that clearly directs voters using wheelchairs, walkers, or strollers along an accessible, lit path to at an alternative accessible entrance. If the alternate path or entrance is not actually accessible, please inform the poll site coordinator immediately and report the condition to your County Board of Elections, or file an incident report with our voter hotline: 866-NYDLC-01.

  2. ADA privacy booth (lower writing surface), placed nearest to the BMD with the voter’s back to the wall and having 5 feet of clearance on two sides to allow a voter in a wheelchair easy access (2016 NYC Manual, at 16). If a disabled voter is not able to vote in privacy, please ask the poll site coordinator to remedy the condition by rearranging equipment or contacting the County Board of Elections

  3. Ballot Marking Device (BMD). Provides assistance marking the ballot for voters with a wide range of disabilities or conditions, via several tools (headphones, braille, magnification, rocker paddle, sip-and-puff, etc). It must be at least three feet from the “guardrail” (an invisible perimeter that denotes the voting area) and four feet from the Election District (ED check-in) Table, to preserve the secret ballot. (NY Election Law §8-202.) The BMD should be positioned near a wall so that the voter has his or her back to a wall, and not the public. Further, the device should have at least a 5-foot clearance from the wall and the sides, allowing a voter in a wheelchair easy access. A mat covers the power cord so it doesn't block the path. BMD should be placed near an electrical outlet.

    1. New York's localities use one of two different types of voting machines. In many counties the BMD only marks the ballot. The voter must then bring the ballot to the DS200 ballot scanner and scan it for the ballot to count.

    2. On the side of an open BMD, a folder has instructions on how to use the accessories. 

On Election Day:

  1. Ensure that the BMD is present, set up, operative, and accessible at the time of Poll Opening. Staff should not wait to set up the BMD until a voter who wants to use it arrives.

  2. Make sure disabled voters receive the assistance they need. The following laws are "civil-rights affirming" in nature and are intended to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to freely cast a ballot without difficulty. 

A. Inspectors shall assist any voter who informs the board, under oath, that s/he (i) cannot read; (ii) see; or (iii) mark ballot due to disability (N.Y. Elec. Law § 8-306). This should be done in a bipartisan way (see "D" below).

B. Voter who needs assistance may be given assistance by a person of their choice, with exception of: voter’s employer/agent or union officer/agent (Id. § 8-306(3)). Power belongs  to the voter and is not limited by age/residency. 

C. Prior to assisting voter at Privacy Booth or BMD, the chosen assistant must take an oath that s/he will not persuade or reveal the vote of the person assisted (Id. § 8-306(5)). This protects the voter's intent and integrity of the election.

D. A voter who is entitled to assistance in voting and does not select a particular person may be assisted by two Inspectors not of the same political party (Id. at § 8-306(7)). This protects the voter's intent and integrity of the election.

E. NYC 2017A Poll Worker Manual has detailed suggestions on how to provide services to voters in need of assistance. https://goo.gl/XLhUzb, at p. 5.

Election administration is a logistical challenge. Voting rights advocates and poll watchers should take particular care to ensure that voting rights for people with disabilities are safeguarded. BOE practices designed for the general public may disproportionately impact these voters, so extra attention must be paid to ensure they can exercise their rights. If a polling place is inaccessible or a BOE procedure/practice creates a hardship, please inform the poll site coordinator or your County Board of Elections. You can also file an incident report with our voter hotline: 866-NYDLC-01.

Showing 1 reaction

  • Jarret Berg
    published this page in Resources 2018-02-05 14:16:39 -0500