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Voting Access

Published – October, 2014

Dear ADA,

        Would you please explain the requirements for voting sites?  I am a Precinct Captain in a small, rural town in North Carolina.  I’m told we have to set up “curbside voting” for people with disabilities AND make sure the space inside is accessible.  Why both?

Signed…Doing my Civic Duty

 

Dear Civic Duty,

        Excellent question.  First let me explain the requirement for curbside voting.  This is NOT a federal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  It is a North Carolina general statute.  It has been on the books since before the Americans with Disabilities Act went into effect; and it is effective until January 1, 2016.  It states that any qualified voter who is able to get to the voting place but is unable to enter the voting enclosure to vote in person without physical assistance (because of age or physical disability and physical barriers at the voting place), bust be allowed to vote either in the vehicle or in the immediate proximity of the voting place.  After that state statute was passed, the ADA went into effect and now requires all voting sites to be accessible.  So a person can vote in his/her vehicle or close by only if he/she has a physical disability that makes it impossible to enter the voting enclosure.

        Therefore, until January 1, 2016, your voting precinct must have BOTH curbside voting capability and full accessible voting enclosures.  The statute also requires you to “have sufficient personnel available on election day with technical expertise to…assist in curbside voting.”

Your precinct or your county Board of Elections must establish a way of alerting precinct workers that someone is outside who wishes to vote curbside and the procedures for doing so.  I have seen some precincts that post someone outside, just in case a curbside vote is required.  I have also seen some precincts set up an alert system (with a button or a drive-across tube like in old fashioned gas stations) that activates a sound inside the precinct.  Unfortunately, some of the precincts set these up in the accessible parking spaces outside.  That is not the right place, because those sites are reserved for people who are getting out of their vehicle, which curbside voters are not.

        If you want information about that or anything related to the ADA, please contact us at 704-537-0550 or email us at askada@disability-rights.org.

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