September 02, 2015
Reflecting on the Americans with Disabilities Act: 25 Years Later
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Enacted in 1990, the law aims to provide protections and remove barriers of access for Americans with disabilities. In honor of this landmark act we are exploring the different provisions and laws that have been created to further the aim of the ADA in relation to voting and how government agencies and voting system vendors are using technology to improve the voter experience at the polls.
Federal Laws Protecting Voters with Disabilities’ Right to Vote
Title II of the ADA: requires state and local governments to ensure people with disabilities have full and equal opportunities to vote. The ADA’s provisions include voter registration, site selection and casting ballots, whether on Election Day or during early voting periods.
Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA): requires election officials to allow voters who are blind or have other forms of disabilities to receive assistance from a person of their choice. The VRA also prohibits the right to vote being conditional on the ability to read or write, attaining a particular level of education or passing an interpretation test.
Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (VAEHA): requires accessible polling places in federal elections for the elderly and voters with disabilities. If an accessible location is unavailable, voters must be provided an alternative means of voting on Election Day.
National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA): requires all offices that provide state-funded programs and public assistance primarily to persons with disabilities to also provide patrons with the opportunity to register to vote in federal elections.
Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA): requires jurisdictions responsible for conducting federal elections to provide at least one accessible voting system for persons with disabilities at each polling place. This voting system must provide the same opportunity for access, privacy and independence that other voters receive.
Addressing concerns from voters with disabilities
The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) continuously reviews how voting processes can improve for voters with disabilities as well as looks for ways to address different concerns like ballots from accessible voting equipment being distinguishable from ballots produced on other voting systems. This has prompted vendors to explore and manufacture universal voting devices to allow all voters anonymity regardless of their abilities.
The EAC’s Accessible Voting Technology Initiative also supports accessibility research in the areas of technology. Already through this initiative the EAC has produced over 45 solutions to assist voters with disabilities.
The EAC also provides a comprehensive list of resources for voters with disabilities. This list includes links to information about voting accessibility laws, best practices and more.
ES&S and Advancing Equal Access
ES&S is committed to helping jurisdictions navigate these waters by answering the needs of all of their constituents and monitoring developments from the U.S. Department of Justice and the EAC. Our voting solutions are designed with accessibility in mind to ensure every voter can exercise their constitutional rights with anonymity. Below are a few helpful checklists from the Justice Department to assist with providing accessible polling places.
Information gathered from ada.gov and eac.gov