« What happened to Henry? | Ragged Edge Home | The ECBloggerArchives Home | At the foot of the steps »

September 27, 2005

Hop to it

Yesterday, Angela Katsakis, Disability Vote Project Coordinator with the American Association of People With Disabilities puts out an email alert which is now on the JFA website: Friday -- this coming Friday, as in Sept. 30 -- is the deadline for the Election Assistance Commission to hear from folks about problems they have gaining access to the polls, she says. Seems a little last-minute to me, but terribly important.

"The EAC needs to hear from people with many different types of disabilities... tell them your story about voting inaccessibility using voting machines, inaccessible polling places or voting instructions." You can do it by email, to votingsystemguidelines@eac.gov -- got to be received by 5 pm E.S.T. this Friday (September 30, 2005). When you send the email, she says, please remember to include your name, address and phone number. AAPD would like a cc on your email too: aapdvote@earthlink.net.

There follows a long bit of background, including some testimony. The scary thing is that the EAC is getting this testimony because it's evaluating new standards for voting machines. "These standards are what will be used to design the next generation of voting equipment," she tells us. And... Uh oh...

[T]he proposed level of access is less than it was in the 2002 standards for people who have partial or low vision and for people who have manual dexterity and hand mobility/strength limitations.

"New access standards should always maintain or move the level of accessibility forward," she says. But the new regs don't have the word "shall" in them -- meaning the access isn't mandatory.

The Help America Vote Act, which Ms. K calls "a sweeping piece of civil rights legislation that requires that all eligible voters shall have access to the voting process without discrimination," is supposed to mean that "voter registration, absentee balloting, polling place access, adequate parking and signage, voting instructions, voting machine instructions... are accessible...."

Access is always so ... inconsequential... in the public's mind. I know, I blog about this constantly. I guess you get tired of it. But I can't help it. I found myself thinking about it again in connection with voting when I read a letter in today's New York Times commenting on their recent editorial inveighing against the proposed requirement being floated by the Commission on Federal Election Reform that voters be required to present at the polls a voter ID. That would be wrong, said The Times; bringing up civil rights. Similar editorials appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the St. Petersburg Times.

If they're so hot to defend people's voting freedoms -- which they should be, of course -- why aren't they likewise hot to call for access to the polls for disabled people?

Why doesn't anyone hardly ever speak out for access? Why isn't that important to the public?

The Rag has run bunches of articles about voting access (here and here are just a couple) and we will no doubt run more. The story's always the same: access denied, access made incredibly difficult, and nobody seems to care. The same themes, always.

If you have a disability and you've tried to vote, you've had a problem. It's almost a given. So please, please, send that email before Friday. You've got two days. Hop to it.

Posted by mjohnson at September 27, 2005 01:50 PM