Northwest ADA Center – Idaho
Accessible Voting By Dana Gover
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many voters were concerned about voting at a polling place on Election Day in 2020. Large numbers of those voters took advantage of opportunities to vote by mail, or to cast an early in-person ballot, and many jurisdictions around the country modified their prior procedures to promote both the safety of their citizens and robust democratic participation. The 2020 election produced record turnout, with over 160 million citizens casting ballots, a result that was all the more impressive given the difficulties the pandemic posed to both voters and election administrators. Since the 2020 election, some States have responded by permanently adopting their COVID-19 modifications; by contrast, other States have barred continued use of those practices or have imposed additional restrictions on voting by mail or early voting. In view of these developments, guidance concerning federal statutes affecting methods of voting is appropriate.
There are three federal statutes that protect the rights of voters with disabilities. State and local government are required to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote. There are additional requirements to improve polling place access for elderly individuals and people with disabilities during federal elections. And these include requirements for voting machine accessibility.
There are also protections for the voting rights of certain active-duty members of the uniformed services, their eligible family members, and United States citizens residing overseas. It guarantees them the right to vote by absentee ballot in elections for federal office, and includes specific requirements designed to ensure that ballots are sent to them in time to be completed, returned, and counted.
For many voters with disabilities, voting by mail on a paper ballot does not provide an opportunity to vote privately and independently, as required by Title II of the ADA. The ADA requires States to provide auxiliary aids and services to voters with disabilities so that they may have an equal opportunity to vote.
Early voting has formed an increasingly large percentage of the total votes cast in federal elections. Early in-person voting comes in two forms: early voting and in-person absentee. Early voting is typically available to all eligible voters, whereas in-person absentee voting is typically limited to voters qualified to cast a mail ballot.
Each in-person polling place must be equipped with at least one direct recording electronic voting system or other voting system equipped for individuals with disabilities.
If you are concerned about accessibility to voting in the next election, contact your nearest ADA Center.
For more information about the ADA contact:
Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator
For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website: nwadacenter.org/idaho
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 7