The Right to Vote: Access for People with Disabilities lt

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


As the 2018 mid-term election approaches, the question asked by people with disabilities will not be "Who won" but rather "WAS I ABLE TO CAST A BALLOT?" This session will examine the status of accessibility of the voting process for people with disabilities. Join us as our speaker provides information on laws applying to voting including the requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and what steps folks can take if barriers are encountered on Election Day.

Speakers URL:



All right. Thank you very much, Lauren, and welcome to everyone joining us across the country. Some of us have moved into that fall season. Our presenter today may or may not be in an undisclosed location where snow may have fallen recently. Wherever you are, I hope that you are doing well and glad that you are joining us today. This is the kickoff of the 2018-2019 ADA Audio Conference season. The ADA Audio Conference Series is a project of the ADA National Network. The National Network is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on community living, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research. You may contact your regional ADA Center by calling 800-4949-4232, or you may find more information about the National Network and information about your regional center by visiting going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

As a reminder, today's session is being recorded, and the archive will be made available following today's session. For those of you that are participating in the webinar platform, as instructed previously, you may submit your questions throughout the session. For those of you connecting by telephone, when we get to the question-and-answer portion of our presentation today, Lauren, our operator, will be brought back in to give instructions on how you may ask those questions. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

So on to the important things. The Right to Vote: Access for People with Disabilities. If I am doing my math correctly and understand the calendar, we are three weeks out from the 2018 midterm elections, and just as with any other citizen, individuals with disabilities have the right to participate in the process of voting and have a say on who is going to represent them at the local, state, and federal levels. So we are very pleased to have Michelle Bishop with us today. She is the -- she is a voting rights specialist with the National Disability Rights Network, and she is going to talk to us today about the Help America Vote Act, HAVA, and what the requirements are of that law and what individuals with disabilities have the right to expect come voting day. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

So I want to join with all of you in welcoming Michelle. So Michelle, thank you for joining us today, and it is your turn.


Peter, thank you so much, and thank you, everyone, for making some time this afternoon to chat with me. I really appreciate it. I am, of course, in a top-secret, undisclosed location, but if you are a fan of the weather channel, then you may know that it did actually snow in San Jose, New Mexico, of all places this week, which was extremely disappointing for me. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

So thank you, everyone, for joining me. As you heard, my name is Michelle Bishop, and I am the voting rights specialist for an organization called the National Disability Rights Network, NDRN. I am going to take a quick look at those in the room today to get a feel for who is on today. I know some of you, which is exciting. I know for some of you, this might be out of your comfort zone, and for others it might be old hat. So before we get started, I just want to say let's try to make this as useful for all of you as possible, so I am going to talk through the slides and the information that I've got, but I am really excited to hear your questions and comments. So you know, keep that Chat box active with Q&A at the end, and if you are looking for something more, want anything on a deeper level or something a little different from this session, I am really open to that. Let's think of this as a discussion and try to make this as useful as we can. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

If you don't know me or you are not familiar with NDRN, don't fear. I am actually going to quickly take us through that before we get started this afternoon, partially because I think that in the topic today, NDRN and the ADA network are actually extremely important. Of course I think that, don't I, I work for NDRN. But I am going to talk about that for a little bit, especially those of you looking to get into work around access to vote for people with disabilities. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

Let's start there, then I promise I won't just brag on our network all afternoon, and we'll talk about some of the bigger issues around the right to vote and the current state of access to vote for people with disabilities. We will have some few practical pieces in here, what you can do right now. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

If you are not familiar with NDRN, we are the National Disability Rights Network. That's a very fancy way of saying that we are the nonprofit membership association for the protection and advocacy systems, or the P&A, which are federally mandated to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. So let's talk about that in more detail because they are the real star here in terms of the voting rights work we are doing. NDRN to support the work of P&As around voter access, but the P&A network was established by Congress to protect the rights of people with disabilities through legal support, advocacy, referral, and education. The really important thing to know about the P&As, if you are not familiar with the network, is that there are 57 because they are federally mandated, so there's one in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, all five of the U.S. territories, and a 57th in the Southwest that actually represents Native Americans with disabilities. So collectively, the P&As are considered the largest provider of legal advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States. Why I think that's important in this conversation, that's what we are about to get to next.going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

So there's a little something called PAVA, Protection & Advocacy for Voter Access. If you haven't heard of it, it's actually a P&A program. The work of the organizations is broad, but we specifically have a federal mandate to the P&A network to work on ensuring full participation in the electoral process for individuals with disabilities, including registering to vote, casting a vote, and accessing polling places. That actually comes from an incredibly important piece of legislation that we are going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

Why I think this could be a good partner for you is going to come up a little later on this afternoon where we'll jump into the heart of it. So I did say there would be a couple really important practical things that I wanted to cover. Before we started talking about the larger (?) access to vote for people with disabilities. If you haven't heard, the elections are coming. The 2018 midterm general election is coming up on Tuesday, November 6. As you heard. We are only about three weeks out. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

So if you work for a disability organization or you are just a really active self-advocate that's interested in getting engaged in this election, three weeks out is a really crucial time. It means we are a little -- we are close to the election, so some of the things we might want to impact. Some of the things that we are maybe going to talk about this afternoon are -- have already been determined by your elections official, and I might be a little late in the game to try to change them before this election, which doesn't mean there's not work to do. We will talk about that. But if you were looking for something, anything to do around the midterm elections that are only about three weeks out, this is a really, really important time for getting people with disabilities engaged in the election. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

There should still be in a lot of places a little bit of time left to get registered to vote. You want to make sure you are registered. You want to make sure all your friends and family are registered. You want to make sure the people with disabilities that you work with are registered. Talk to them about why it's important to get registered, why they need to vote this November. I also always stress to people who tell me I am already registered to vote, you should always check and verify your registration before Election Day for a few reasons. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

You may realize that your name or address are out of date on your registration and you still have some time left to update that. But mistakes do happen, and you could also find that you are not present on the voter roll. Our states and our local elections officials, they do a lot to try to keep those rolls clean because they get a really bad rap if they are not. You always hear things like there's voter fraud because there's all these dead people on the voter rolls. So they have to go through and clean those rolls and get all the inactive voters off the rolls. And sometimes mistakes happen. So you may feel that you are registered and you may or may not be on the rolls. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

It's not that common, but it can happen. Nobody wants that kind of surprise on election day. So I always say contact your local election authority or go online, make sure you are still registered, you are present on the rolls while you are just going ahead and making sure your registration is current or encouraging others to register. It's also a really good time to start making a plan to vote. How am I going to get to my polling place? How am I going to get home? Do I know if my polling place is accessible to me? How can I check that information, which we will talk about later this afternoon. But really importantly, reading up on what's going to be on your ballot. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

That's the last resource I have included on this slide here because it's a favorite resource of mine. I was actually just talking with some colleagues about it a couple weeks ago because I have to vote absentee. I live in Northern Virginia, and I will be working on election day in the District of Columbia from before polls open until after they close, and I don't ever get a chance to go to my polling place. So I actually, cast my absentee ballot a couple weeks ago. I have already voted. And this happens to me every time, and I bet it happens to a lot of you. I got my ballot. I was very excited because I do this for a living. So I love election day. Election day is like Christmas to me. So my ballot came in the mail, and I was very excited. When I looked at the races, the people who were running against each other, I already knew who I wanted to vote for. I had already been paying attention and done some of my research, and I knew who I supported. I checked those off right away. And then I get down to the end of the ballot, and there's these ballot measures on there, the ballot initiatives, you know, vote yes or no on such-and-such proposition, and it has a really big, confusing description of what that proposition is, and I bet this happens to a lot of you because it happens to me as well. I read that pair graph that tells me what -- paragraph that tells me what Proposition A is, and I cannot figure out what on earth I am voting for or whether or not I think it's a good idea. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

That's why I included this resource on the slide here because I love this webpage, This is actually something that's been out, and they do an amazing job on this. You can actually put in your information, look up your registration, find your polling place, but it will also show you what's going to be on your ballot. You can get some of that information by going to your local elections officials, or they might even send one to you in the mail if they are doing a really great job, but what they won't give you that you can get from this website is a breakdown of what some of those ballot measures actually mean. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

They are going to show you the language that will be on your ballot, but then they also include a plain language explanation of what it means that's not written in legalese. It even has, if you vote yes, you are saying this; if you vote no, you are saying this. Here's why the proponents support it. Here's why the opponents oppose it. And it really helps me think through what I think about each of those ballot measures and helps me to feel confident that I am casting an educated ballot. So I thought that would be a great resource, even for you as individuals, but also if you are going to get out there in the next couple weeks and you are going to try to get people registered or talk to them about election day coming up and get them excited, you are inevitably going to come across people who say they are not planning on voting because they don't feel educated enough about the issues. This is such an easy resource to give them that's completely nonpartisan but will give them a really good breakdown so they can feel that confidence as well and get ready to vote. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

All right. That's probably enough of me harping on that. Let's start talking about the bigger issues, the stuff you really came here today. So why is our vote so important? Why are we talking about the disability vote? Why are so many disability organizations really focusing on upcoming elections, working on access to the vote. There's a really simple reason to it, but one I think is really powerful. We have the statistics to show the disability voter turnout is 6% behind nondisabled Americans. This has actually been studied by Rutgers University, and they find that this is pretty consistent. That number hovers around 6%. That means that people who don't have disabilities turn out to vote at a rate that's about 6% higher than people who do have disabilities. I know that that number sounds pretty small. Right, 6%, that doesn't sound like a lot. I didn't come out here today and say that people with disabilities vote at a rate that's 25% lower or 75% lower. I didn't give you a big, impressive number. I gave you 6%. But we are talking about millions, tens of millions of voters in the United States. So that little 6% number, when you think about it, 6% is equal to 3 million missing voters. If we closed the gap in participation between people with disabilities and people without disabilities, that would mean there would be 3 million more voters with disabilities in the United States. That is enough voters to win any election we've ever had. That's enough voters to win a Presidential election. Actually, in a Presidential election, that's a pretty big margin. That's a fairly firm victory. So this little 6% is a huge number. It's a powerful number. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

What it really means is that people with disabilities, there are approximately 35 million -- I believe it's actually 35.4 million eligible voters with disabilities in the United States. If we really harness the power of all those voters, people with disabilities would be incredibly powerful. And that's something that's very real to the work that we do in the disability rights community because our local governments, our state governments, our federal governments are making decisions every day about the lives of people with disabilities. If you think of anything that's important to you in the world of disability, there's a tie-in to how our elected officials are making decisions about that. Is access to education important to you? Discrimination in employment? Availability of affordable, accessible housing? Availability of healthcare? The ability to get a personal care attendant so you can live in the community rather than live in the nursing home? Some of those really key issues -- public transportation. How could I forget public transportation that's accessible and affordable? These are some of the core issues for people with disabilities. These are the things that make it possible for us to live, work, and play in our communities. And at an unprecedented level, in a way that we've never had before. But those are decisions that are made by our elected officials. The very real money it takes to fund those things are decisions that are made by our elected officials, and our elected officials have access to these numbers. If I know that people with disabilities don't turn out and vote, I promise you, people who are running for office, well, they may not know it personally, but they pay very smart people to pay attention to those numbers, and they know. They know our voter registration is lower. They know our voter turnout rate is lower. And so when they are thinking about their priorities and who their constituents are and who they really serve, is it really people with disabilities? If we are not participating in the democratic process? So that's the big hoopla around the disability vote. That's why we think this is so important. A lot of what we are going to be talking about today is why, why is there a gap in our participation? Why don't we turn out at a rate that our nondisabled peers are? going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

Now, there's a lot of reasons, and this is one of the things that's frustrating me in the work I do. I bet a lot of you did this. When you heard this number and you started to understand that we vote at a lower rate, there might have been something in the back of your mind that said we are apathetic or we don't care or maybe we just didn't like any of the candidates, so we decided not to vote. And there is a reason for that. If you had that in your mind, don't feel guilty. That's how we talk about voting in America in general. We talk about potential voters as if they just don't care or they are not paying attention or they didn't like any of the candidates or any of those things that we say. And it frustrates me. As someone who works in this, as someone who gets to see the machine of elections up close on a regular basis, because we don't really know that. The only thing we know on election night is who turned out and who didn't. We don't really know their reasons. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

The other thing we don't know is if they tried to vote and were denied a ballot. Which happens in a very real way. If you have questions about that, I encourage you to Google voter ID requirements in Wisconsin and see how many people tried to vote in Wisconsin in 2016 who were turned away because they couldn't get the correct type of ID. The assumption being that those folks just didn't show up on election day, but some of them really did, and they cared and were paying attention, and they tried and they weren't able to cast their ballots. I think this is a critically important because I believe it's a big part of the experience of voters with disabilities in America. I don't believe that we are apathetic. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

I don't believe that we don't care and we are not trying. And we've got some stats to prove it. Pew Research Center actually took a look at this in 2016, and they found that voters with disabilities were actually more likely than their nondisabled peers to report that they were paying attention to the Presidential election, and they thought the results of the election really matter. So we've got some stats to show that people with disabilities care and were paying attention but were still voting at a lower rate. Why is that happening? I think it's, to me, a big part of that is access issues. We simply don't have access to the system. Sometimes we try and we are not able to cast that ballot. Or maybe we tried several times and it's never worked. How many years in a row do you keep going back before you realize that the system is not set up for you to be able to participate and you just give up? I think that is a more common experience for voters with disabilities in America than we still want to acknowledge. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

So whew, that got a little deep. Maybe that got a little depressing. Don't worry. We are going to go through some of the stats on what that looks like in America right now, but then we are going to talk about what we can do about it. So stay with me. We are going to end this on a high note. going to talk about this afternoon called the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. So that's enough about that.

So let's talk about the basic framework. When we say voting accessibility, what do we mean? Because there is a very clear definition for this. There are actual federal laws that specify what voting accessibility is. And if you can see on the slide here, we are going to talk about the big three, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA; the Help America Vote Act or HAVA; the Voting Rights Act, or the VRA. Now, there are more laws that apply here. We are not going to focus on them here today for a few reasons. I think these are the three that are most important, especially when we are three weeks out from the election. It is also important for the motor, it's known that your Department of motor vehicles or DMV has to require voting registration for everyone that goes through, and also extends to social service agencies and extends to offices that receive state funding that provide services to people with disabilities. That's something that's worth knowing in your state. Are we complying with that? Are we making sure these offices are offering voter registration for people with disabilities and meeting their obligation here? But three weeks out of election day, that's probably too big a task to take on now, and voter registration deadlines are so close, it's not going to have impact you are looking for. So probably a topic for a different way. Also voter accessibility for the handicapped Act, which is actually a piece of legislation from the 1980s, so actually predates the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it does say that our polling places are supposed to be accessible to people with disabilities. It does, however, I think not go as far as the ADA, which is why I'd say it's probably not as relevant today. It also provides a lot of outs. It's a piece of legislation that says that if you can't make it accessible, you can provide alternate means of casting a ballot. We are going to talk about what some of those alternate means are a little later in the presentation and the pros and cons of them. I think they come with -- they can be very helpful, but I think that they also generate some problems for voters with disabilities as well.

So when we talk through the laws this afternoon, I am going to focus on the big three. There's more we need to talk about there. You want to hear about some of these other pieces of legislation that you think are crucial, definitely put that in the Chat box or ask that during the Q&A, we'll make sure we talk about that.

Let's talk about right now the ADA and voter access. The Americans with Disabilities Act is still the gold standard, I would say, in access to polling places, and that's specifically because the architectural access standards included in the ADA apply to polling places. And the Department of Justice has issued some guidance around this that make it quite clear how those standards apply to polling places. So everything you know about the ADA, requirements for having the right number of parking spaces and access aisles for parking spaces, accessible paths of travel, the weight of doors or having propped-open doors, the slope of a ramp, all of those things that make a building accessible to people with disabilities, they apply to your polling places, and I included a link here to because the Department of Justice actually created a really handy checklist for you that lays out what all those specifics are. It maps out an ideal polling place. This is the gold standard for polling place accessibility.

And I think it's still incredibly important -- I want to say a quick note on this -- because there's a lot of talk right now about how we are expanding options for voting. People are voting in new ways. More and more states are looking at things like vote by mail and going to all vote by mail, we are moving away from that traditional neighborhood polling place model. Now, that's true, but there is always going to be, for the foreseeable future, a need for some sort of polling place and a need for this architectural access for a lot of reasons. Change is slow in the world of elections, for good reason. Change is also risky in the world of elections. Elections administrators who change things quickly and play it fast and loose are the same elections administrators who are going to be blamed if something goes wrong on election day. So we really weigh our decisions in the world of elections before we make changes. Western states are a little more open to change. That's why a lot of the vote by mail states that you know, Oregon and Colorado and California is kind of looking at that now, tend to be in the west. Eastern states for whatever reason are a little more resistant to change. I think we also can see from polling data that Americans are surprisingly committed to going to their neighborhood polling place. There's data to show that they really love this model. It's just part of our patriotic experience, I guess, that we go to our neighborhood polling place and we stay in that line and we get our "I voted" sticker when we leave. We love it. And I can't knock it. I love it too. I am really mad that when they mailed me my absentee ballot this year, I didn't get my "I voted" sticker with it. We are really committed, as Americans, to that traditional model, and I think that will continue to hold on for some years to come.

But even when we look at making changes to how we vote, these vote-by-mail models, they tend to include vote centers, and they are a little different from the neighborhood polling place, but the same standards apply. A vote center, if you are not familiar with them, is just essentially having a reduced number of polling places, so rather than having to have a polling place for every precinct that's only so far from every voter in that precinct so that you go to one in your own neighborhood, there's a fewer number of vote centers sort of spread out around the state, but you can go to any vote center. You are not assigned to one. So you can go to one near your home, one near your work, and they are usually alternate means of casting a ballot or submitting the ballot that was mailed to you, and those have to comply with the same accessibility standards. Ideally, states that are doing this are picking their real rock star polling places to serve as their vote centers, their most accessible locations, but that doesn't always happen. There's a lot of competing interests in how these vote centers get selected. So these architectural access standards that we get from the ADA have always been particularly important to access to the vote, and I think they are going to continue to be, even though we are looking at new ways of expanding options to the ballot for all voters.

A couple quick things I just want to note about that. You may have seen some (?) surveys. This is a really common practice for a lot of P&As and Centers for Independent Living that are sending out volunteers to do widespread surveys, accessibility of polling places. They take these standards that I have here, this checklist for polling places, and narrow it down to taking things that are important but easier to measure and capturing those. I think this is a great way to do the work on a really practical level. It makes it easier for us to get more volunteers and for them to have enough time to get to more polling places to get the work done to really capture what's happening in terms of accessibility. It makes it really easy to talk to our elections officials about what we saw on election day, what needs to be improved to make it more accessible. I will say it's important to note if this is something you are doing that a good result with a shortened survey does not necessarily reflect full compliance with the ADA based on what's in that shortened survey. So something to think about.

Something else that I think is really important here, I just really can't move on without addressing it. You may have seen in the news that Randolph County, Georgia -- if you are not a Georgian, you have probably never heard of it before -- recently attempted to close about 80% of their polling place -- it's not very big, it only has nine polling places total. They plan to close seven of them. And they claimed that it was because those polling places were not ADA compliant. Now, this ended up being big news for a few reasons. Randolph County, Georgia, was planning on closing the polling places a few weeks ago, right before a major midterm election. Randolph County, Georgia, at some point in time would have been covered under federal preclearance of the Voting Rights Act, which means they wouldn't have been able to do something in the past like this without getting approved by the Department of Justice first. This county was primarily an African American county. They also didn't do a good job showing they surveyed their polling places or attempted to remedy the ADA compliance before pushing through a plan to close polling places. Although Randolph County got so much publicity and pushback, they backed out of that plan and won't be closing the polling places. But the reason this is important for us as disability rights advocates as to surveying polling places and pushing for full ADA compliance.

I actually got a lot of phone calls after that incident from people who know me, who know I do this work, asking should we keep surveying polling places? Do we keep arguing for full compliance with the ADA polling places? Because we don't want polling place closures. Closing 80% of the polling places in any given county makes voting less accessible for everyone. Some of those polling places start to get really far away from the voters. There are polling places when these types of things happen that can be a 40-minute drive away. That's a big barrier for a nondisabled person who has their own car and a driver's license. When we start looking at people who are less likely to have a car, people who are less likely to have a license, people -- which is particularly people who are low income and people with disabilities -- that becomes a huge barrier. When we are talking about parts of the country where there's no public transit at all, let alone accessible public transit, it's a huge barrier. This isn't something that we want. This isn't something that disability rights advocates were pushing for in that situation. Do we keep pushing for this ADA compliance?

I want to address that just in case it's something that is in the back of any of your minds, if you saw those news stories in a particularly good Washington Post article about it, and I want to say to me, now is the time to double down on surveying polling places and pushing for ADA compliance. I don't think we can give the impression that we will back down or be scared away from requiring full compliance with the law and full access for our voters just because of this situation. If anything, it's time to show that we are not going away.

That said, I think we can do the work thoughtfully. I think it's absolutely beneficial to survey polling places. I think that's something if you've got your act together, you've got a good volunteer base, that you could plan to do for this upcoming election. I think issuing reports following the election with your results publicly, sending them to your elections administrators, talking to them about what they need to do is beneficial. I think we can do it in a way that's really thoughtful and really make our case. And that's why you see on the slide here same-day modifications can be used. I think now is the time to push for full compliance with the ADA, but to really be clear in our message and to really talk to our elections officials about what that means. That doesn't mean you go out and survey 100% of your polling places, and if 80% of them aren't accessible you shut them down and only leave 20% of your polling places. It means you need to talk to people with disabilities who know what they are talking about about how to make changes, recommendations to fully include relocating a polling place to another location nearby, still within that precinct, that's more accessible, or making same-day modifications. Some of these solutions are really simple. If you don't have enough parking places, get temporary parking signs and traffic cones, and you can make parking spaces and access aisles just with those orange cones. And those are -- you know, there's no ramp, but if it's possible to put down a portable ramp, just for election day, that will be ADA compliant, that's something that you can do. And these are things that elections officials can purchase and keep their own supply of so that some day if that location becomes more accessible or is no longer used as a polling place, I still own my orange cones and my temporary signs and my portable ramps, and we can use them wherever else I need them.

So I think now is still absolutely in my mind the time to be pushing for compliance but to be really thoughtful in the recommendations that we make. And I think it's really important to talk about talking to people with disabilities, including them in the process, looking at nearby locations we can relocate them to, and really looking at low-cost modifications to make sites ADA compliant.

If you are looking to see if a polling site is accessible, there are some things I recommend. You can contact the local elections official, whoever the authority is for your polling places. I am so sorry if any of can you hear that background noise. And they should know. They are required to survey their polling places. They should know. They should be able to provide that information for you. It might even be available online if you go to your election official's website to get that information. The other thing you can do, as I said -- I am going to keep pushing them -- is to contact your P&A, and we are going to talk about how to do that later on because P&As tend to be doing a lot of this work as well and can provide a lot of information here.

Okay. We talked about the ADA a lot. You get it. It's really important. Let's talk about another really important piece of legislation, Help America Vote Act, or HAVA. And this is something that is a little different. If you are not familiar with HAVA, it applies more directly to the voting booth itself, the actual systems that we are using to cast our ballots. HAVA is not really necessarily looking at the architectural access. That's more the domain of the ADA. HAVA is a piece of legislation, a single most important thing in HAVA is that it guarantees us a private and independent ballot. This is the piece of legislation where someone says you have a right to cast a private and independent ballot, which everyone should be telling people with disabilities ad nauseam, that's where it comes from. That's actually written into federal legislation. That's a real federal right that you have. How profoundly important is that? Also the Help America Vote Act didn't become law in 2002, so how interesting is it that that wasn't something we had written into federal legislation until about 16 years ago? But we have it, so let's work it.

HAVA is famous for the replacement of punch card systems. You probably heard of HAVA, and a that's probably why. If you remember the 2000 election and there was a big debacle about whether or not Bush or Gore had won the election, and it came down to those punch card systems, where you had to I can approximate up -- my gosh, how inaccessible were these? You had to take a piece of paper and slide it into the little guide and get it lined up correctly then pick up essentially a thumb tack and try to push out a hole next to the person you want to vote for. If you remember all those -- the pregnant Chads and the hanging Chads and all of the times where someone tried to punch out the hole and it didn't punch correctly, so the voter's intent wasn't clear, that whole drama is how we got the Help America Vote Act. The Help America Vote Act very clearly and specifically talks about getting rid of those punch card systems. The beautiful thing about the Help America Vote Act is it also became an attempt to make voting work better for voters. A recognition that part of how we got into this situation with the 2000 election was because we weren't really thinking about usability for voters when we were designing the way we cast a ballot. So it comes with all these other really cool things, like the voluntary voting system guidelines. That's that base standard that says what should be included in a voting system.

Now, as a caveat, yeah, the first word in the VVSG is voluntary. Those systems are not mandatory. The good news is we know the majority of states actually do use them to select their voting systems, and some of them, some state legislatures actually adopted them as well. So these are those standards -- and they talk about accessibility. They talk about usability. A new version of the standards is coming out, talks more about security and tries to create a balance between accessibility and security. So it's an amazing document, and that's how we got probably the biggest legacy of HAVA, which are those electronic voting systems. So if you go to a voting place, you insert a card and uses a touchscreen or you insert a blank card and use a touchscreen, that's where that comes from. Admittedly, I am not completely enamored by any of those voting systems. I don't personally believe any of them are 100% accessible, but they represent a great leap forward from those punch card systems where accessibility didn't seem to be a concern whatsoever. So HAVA is that piece of legislation that's really pushing the ball forward in terms of voting accessibility. And frighteningly, before 2002, it wasn't that much of a priority. I know personally a lot of people with disabilities who started voting as soon as they turned 18, and they never voted with privacy and independent until after HAVA, and some of them were in their 60s and 70s at this point. I know people who voted -- and I bet you do too -- their entire lives having to tell someone else how to mark their ballot for them and trusting someone else to mark that ballot the way they intended. So HAVA is an incredibly important piece of legislation. It also created that mandate for the P&As to do this work, and it created something called the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is responsible for a lot of the really great things we see happening right now, like the creation of the voluntary voting system guidelines, as well as bringing together accessibility experts and security experts and elections officials to talk these things through and create best practices. So that's a quick overview of what HAVA looks like.

One last really important piece of federal legislation which is really big, but we are going to talk about one little piece of it, is the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I am sure you know the Voting Rights Act. This is one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in our history. This is the piece of legislation that came out of the protests and the march from Selma in the 1960s to prevent discrimination in our electoral processes. This was about poll taxes. This is about voter intimidation. It outlaws a lot of those things. It also provides for assistance at the polls. Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act says that voters who need assistance at that to vote by reason of blindness, disability, or an inability to read or write have the right to have an assistant of their choice with them.

There are a couple of exceptions to that rule. It can't be your employer or it can't be your union rep, and you know, that's to prevent another type of voter intimidation. But other than that, if you are a person with a disability, then you need or feel more comfortable voting with assistance at the poll, you have the right to bring whoever you want. That person doesn't have to be voting at that polling place, don't have to live in that state or jurisdiction, they don't have to be a registered voter, don't have to be over the age of 18, they don't have to be a United States citizen, they don't have to be fluent in English. It can be a person of your choosing. That's incredibly powerful, because for those of us who are still using an assistant to vote, it means we can use someone that we trust to mark the ballot the way we intend. It means although you are sacrificing a bit of privacy, you get to choose who you do that with. I will say if you don't have an Assistant to bring with you, one Republican and one Democratic pollworker will also assist you. You have the legal right to that as well. But we find that a lot of people with disabilities go to the polling place with the assistant of their choice, and then the pollworkers tell them that we have to assist you, not this person you brought with you. That's not true. It's really important to make sure that voters with disabilities know they have this option. Okay.

Let's get to the good stuff, the meaty stuff, now that we've kind of done a little bit of a legal framework. Let's talk about the current state of polling place access in the United States. This is something we know a lot about, and because the U.S. Government accountability Office, or GAO, has actually surveyed the accessibility of polling places in 2000, 2008, and 2016. And has actually publicly issued those reports. If you are following along on the PowerPoint here, you have a link that you can click through and find those reports. These are requested by Congress, so I don't know if they'll continue. Hopefully. In I suppose 2020, maybe, we'll have another one of these reports. But they must be requested by Congress. I say that because if you look at these reports and think they are important, would it hurt to tell your congressperson that you want to see this happen? This is a type of advocacy that can come from the people to make sure we ton have this baseline of data. These show what we currently know about the state of access in the United States. That's what we are about to get into here. These stats I am about to show you actually come from these reports.

So there's two main issues we are going to look at here. The path of travel from the time you park or get up to the polling place to getting to the voting booth and then the voting booth itself. So the accessibility of polling places, that architectural access, from the time I arrive at the polling place until I get up to the voting booth, has changed from 2000 to 2016. We see here -- and this is shocking, but in 2000, the percentage of accessible polling places in the United States was 16%. Only 16% of polling places were considered fully accessible to people with disabilities. That's a shockingly low number. That means roughly 84% of our polling places were not accessible. In 2008, we see that number jump up to 27%. In 2016, it jumps up again to 40%. So this is a complicated number, especially if you are our presenter today and this is what you do for a living and kind of your life's work. 40% is still less than half. That means that 60% of our polling places last year -- two years ago -- remain inaccessible. And that's shockingly low, and that's completely unacceptable. Here's the really sad part of that story. When that report was issued and I got that 40% number in my hand, I was actually happy and relieved because we are still moving in the right direction. So I guess the takeaway here is that progress is slow, but the accessibility of our polling places is still generally moving in the right direction. And there's a lot of reasons for that. You know, polling places change from election to election. We don't always use the same polling places. The accessibility of those polling places can be improved or deteriorate. So there's a lot of different factors at play. Accessibility in a sense is a moving target. We don't go visit all of our polling places and make recommendations and they get adopted and we never have a problem again. It's a continual process. So we are moving in the right direction, but slowly.

Now, here is a real interesting part. When we look at the voting booths themselves, how we are actually casting our ballot, voting stations with at least one potential impediment for people with disabilities wasn't something that was studied in the 2000 report. But in 2018 and 2016, this is something that GAO took a look the a, and they found that in 2008, 46% of voting booths were inaccessible in at least one way. In 2016, 65% of our voting booths were inaccessible. That number is actually getting worse. The number of accessible voting booths in the United States is going down. And that's a big jump. 46% inaccessible to 65%.

We went from less than half to more than half. 65% of our voting stations are inaccessible. There's a reason for this, and I think a big part of what's propelling this is a return to paper ballot. When HAVA passed, we were excited about making voting accessible to everyone. When it rolled out electronic voting, essentially, and electronic ballot marking in an attempt to do that. Since then, the security concerns have picked up steam, and that's really the hot topic right now, more so than the accessibility. So we are moving towards -- we are moving back towards using paper-based system and assuming the majority of voters are going to come in and pick up a pen and hand mark that ballot, and then only a few people with significant disabilities are going to use that electronic voting booth. Now, this number to me is depressing, and it's worrying and concerning. To those of you who are listening today, I would hope you would take this as a call to advocacy. There is work here for us to do. We are doing all right when it comes to architectural access. It's slow but we are making progress. We can keep plugging away on that. But when it comes to how we cast our ballot, we have a looming crisis here. We have work to do. I hope that seeing these statistics makes you feel fired up to do this work. So let's talk about the specifics. Let's talk about what's actually happening.

One What are the types of impediments they are finding when they look at voting stations. Not set up for privacy. The number of voting stations not set up for privacy increased between 2008 and 2016 by about 5%. The number of voting stations that are set up so they are not wheelchair accessible jumped significantly from 29% to 42%. That is a huge jump in the number of voting stations that were set up, so that might mean there was no clearance under whatever the voting station was to roll your wheelchair under. That might mean there was not enough clearance from the wall. That's a huge increase.

What else? There were 3% more voting stations did not have a set of earphones readily apparent for someone who needs to vote with an audio ballot? If I am blind, I can put on headphones and have it read to me. That was less likely. This one was a small percentage, but man, this gets under my skin. The last piece of this was the voting system was less likely to be powered on. It was only a 2% jump, but we are less likely to even take the electronic voting system out of the box, plug it in, and turn it on before voters show up on election day. These are the four educators that they looked at when GAO did this survey, and every single one of them has actually gotten worse.

We make an assumption that the majority of voters are going to come in and take a paper ballot and a pen and sit down at a folding table and hand mark it and that a few voters will have to use the electronic system. What that means is we are not paying attention to these details anymore when we set up that voting system, and we are not training our pollworkers how to set up and use those voting systems. And we are not making sure that they do it on election day.

So the bottom line here in terms of the access piece is that polling places are slowly becoming more accessible. Voting stations are actually becoming less accessible. And I hope that all of you seeing this are feeling fired up and taking this as a call to action.

Now, let's talk practical because some of these problems we are not going to be able to solve in the next three weeks before election day, so let's talk about options for voters. This is something I mentioned when we talked about the voting access for elderly and handicapped Act, provide those alternate means for testing a ballot. So some of you in your states -- and I will show you some ways you can find this out -- have an option for curbside voting. If I can get to my polling place but I can't get inside because it's not accessible to me, curbside voting means that the pollworkers have to bring a means of casting my ballot out to me. So let's say I use a wheelchair and I pull up in my van and there are stairs and no ramp and no elevator to the church basement where my polling place is located. They have to come out to my van and bring the ballot to me so I can vote my ballot outside.

Early voting is increasing. This can be a more accessible option for some. I think in a few ways for voters with disabilities, partly what that means is if maybe transportation is a big issue for me, I have maybe a few weeks to try to get to my polling place or a vote center and cast my ballot. So that it's easier for me to arrange that transportation or maybe get an assistant to come with me. It also means that some of the early voting locations hopefully are my rock star accessibility locations that may be more accessible to me than my neighborhood polling place.

Absentee balloting is a big thing that came out of the voting accessibility for the elderly and handicapped act. If these are inaccessible, people can typically request an absentee ballot. Some states you don't need to have a reason, and states where a reason is required, being a person with a disability or the primary caregiver for a person with ability it are some of the -- with a disability are some of the typical reasons that you can cast an absentee ballot. A couple of these are troubling to me. Let's pause here.

Curbside voting I think makes a lot of sense until we can solve the problem of polling place inaccessibility. My concern with curbside voting being that pollworkers don't like to do it. So it can be really a bit of a nightmare on election day. Sometimes it means sitting out at a polling place where you can't get inside and the pollworkers don't know you are there. It can mean pollworkers who are really resistant to coming out when they know you are there. It can mean pollworkers who challenge you on whether or not you should be eligible to cast a curbside ballot. So some of this requires the voter with a disability to really be committed to advocating for themselves to get this to happen.

Absentee balloting is also a little bit troubling for me. I think there's always going to be a need for absentee ballots. I think people with disabilities should always be allowed to Katz an absentee ballot. But absentee ballots are typically not accessible. The traditional model means mailing a piece of paper to your home. That's not accessible for everyone, and that requires using an assistant and trusting someone else to mark your ballot for you, which to me is unaccessible, although options are getting better here.

If we look at states like Oregon and Maryland, they are now sending ballots to you electronically, where if you have the means to get to a computer and an internet connection, you can receive that ballot and use whatever accessibility features you need or AT you need on your home computer to fill out that ballot. It does still need to be able to print it to return it in person or mail it because Internet voting is not something that we are really doing in the United States, but it does make it infinitely more accessible. We are moving in the right direction.

A couple of options that you do have that are (?) are getting the ballot casting equipment brought to your home. This is something that's sometimes done for people who are considered, for lack of a better phrase, home bound, so it's an option that you should pursue if it's needed, but sometimes you have to do a little advocacy to get your election officials to be willing to do this. It costs time and money.

And relocating your polling place. This is something that can be a bit of a paperwork nightmare. But if your polling place in your precinct is not accessible to you, you can typically have it reassigned to another polling place, even if it's in another precinct. It's complicated for the official, so they are not crazer, but I have found pushing for one solution makes them more eager for another. Those are some of the options you want to know about for voters, be able to inform them about, so they can think about the full range of their options. What works well for one person with a disability isn't necessarily great for another. For some voters, the problem is really just that the polling place is not accessible for their wheelchair but they can fill out an absentee ballot independently, even if it's a paper ballot, and that's going to work for them. Go ahead.


Sorry, this is Peter. I don't know if you are moving away from the mouthpiece at all, but your sound is coming and going just a little bit, if you could speak into the headset. Thank you.


Let me try to reposition. Please interrupt me if that's an issue. Don't will he me keep talking if no one can hear me. Some of those options are really individualized. You really want to talk to your voters about what options are going to work best for them. Okay. We'll keep it moving. How do you know your options? How do you research your options? We talked about very few federal laws. How do I sound? Am I okay, Peter?


I am sorry. Go ahead, Michelle?


Do I sound a little better?


Yes, you are fine. You are fine.


Okay. Good.

How do you research your options?

We only talked about a handful of laws because the federal government actually has very little to say about how we run our elections. The majority of voting and election laws in the United States are actually state laws or even local regulations because voting is so decentralized. So all those different options we talked about -- whether or not you can vote absentee, whether or not there will be an electronic option for absentee, whether or not you can do a curbside ballot -- those are primarily state laws, so it's impossible for me to sit down today -- and we probably don't even have the time -- and tell you what the laws look like in your state. So some ways to research your options. Your state elections website is probably going to have a lot of this information. They are also more likely to have a website in and a more thorough website than your local elections officials. And for the statewide laws, this should be on there somewhere. That said, not all state websites are accessible, so that's an issue. You may need to call them and talk to them as well.

Your local elections officials increasingly have websites where they provide this information, although I still like talking to my local county-level elections officials directly if I can and place the call. Make sure you ask for the right person. If you have a question around absentee balloting, ask for the absentee department. Whoever answers the phone doesn't necessarily know all the different options for voters with disabilities. That's an option as well. I know that's intimidating for a lot of individual voters, so sometimes I think helping our voters to do this research or having done it for them can be really helpful as well. These are the types of things that are really intimidating for voters that we find being able to answer these questions for them is really comfortable and helps them feel more prepared to vote.

Of course, I am going to stress your P&A. We do a lot of this work in our network. We have a lot of those answers for you. I did promise how to find your P&A if you don't know them, so the P&A is typically -- most of the P&A organizations right now have the title Disability Rights. There's an Indiana Disability Rights, a Disability Rights Ohio. Some of them still use P&A. Michigan protection & advocacy services. A few have other names that don't fit the mold, like the Georgia Advocacy Office. If you are not familiar with your P&A, you can if to our website,, and there will be a map in the United States in the top corner that you can click on that will give you a full listing. I am going to give you my contact into he as well so if you want to make that connection or maybe you have your relationship with your P&A right now is less than ideal and you want to help strengthen that, I am happy to help you navigate those issues. One more website that I having in to do with but I want to highlight because I think it's really cool is electionary. Like dictionary but for elections. This is a new resource. They are working on their accessibility, and they are working on including disability information. This is something they are very conscious of doing. But the point of is for you to get information about the laws and your options in your state. So a lot of this information is going to be included there, whether or not curbside voting is an option in your state. And it's a great catch-all resource. I am just a fan of what they are doing. It's a newer site. And it's a beast collecting all that information.

I am going to give you my contact info. If you use or you use and there's something not accessible about the site or a piece of missing information relevant to voters with disabilities, don't hesitate to also shoot me an email. I am actually happy to follow up with those folks and talk to them about how these resources could be more useful to voters with disabilities. But all in all, I included these two sites because I think they are strong resources, something to think about. So it's worth researching what your options are in your state or local jurisdiction before election day, knowing those options. If you are, you know, on the line right now and you work for a disability rights organization that talks to voters about getting registered and voting, you want to make sure you know these options. You have those answers for them and you can help them to make a plan to vote. Making a plan to vote is a really important piece of making a voter feel ready for election day.

All right. We are almost done. But I want to talk about what to do when voting goes wrong. Hopefully everyone has a fluid experience on election day. They run into no barriers, they run into pollworkers that know what kind of accommodation they need to provide and everything is set up and it goes ideal. That never happens. Voting, election day is big and complicated, and there's a lot of moving parts. Inevitably, something always happens. What do you do as a voter when something goes wrong? Of course I am going to say you should call your P&A. There is a real reason for that. A lot of them run voter hot lines specific to disability and access issues, and they are prepared to help you on election day. Don't hesitate to make that call.

You can also encourage voters to call election protection. That's that hotline if you have heard of it. I have the Ling on the screen as well. Something important to know about the Election Protection. It's much broader than that hot line. If you call that hot line, you are going to get an attorney or law student who is prepared to help you in English, but there are other hot lines that are all wrapped up into that Election Protection Coalition, including hot lines that are English and Spanish, hot lines that are English and about, oh, my gosh, nine different Asian languages, and then another hot line that is English and several Middle Eastern languages.

I also wanted to pull out something new. So it's worth knowing that website and what the full range of options are. They are also always looking at launching other ways to contact them other than voice hot line. I believe this year we will be launching a text message option, so it's worth looking at that website as well to see if that's going to get up and running.

There are two things specifically that I wanted to separate out because these are really specific to disability, and I thought were really cool. Election Protection is doing a lot of work to be more accessible.

The National Association of the Deaf, NAD, launched an ASL hotline or American Sign Language hotline for voters. NAD gets all the credit for this. This is something that they launched on their own that I just happen to think is really, really cool. But then I got them connected with Election Protection, so it will be rolled into that effort as well. So for people who are deaf and hard of hearing or anyone fluent in ASL, they can actually do a videophone call to NAD to have their questions answered or receive assistance as a voter who speaks ASL. Now, at the time that I pulled these slides together, I didn't have the hotline number yet, but I do have it now, so I am going to tell it to you and I am going to, as I am doing that, if you hear me slowing down while I am talking -- which I apologize because I am a fast-talking New Yorker by birth -- I am going to put that hotline number in the Chat room, and I will say it to you as well. It's 301-818-8683. Although if you also go to NAD's website or just Google NAD ASL voter hotline, it will come right up. It's a video phone number that you can connect directly there. And the Arc also has an app that you can download on your phone for voters. I am so sorry, I looked really hard for a link for this and I couldn't find anything to provide you. I think they are doing some work on it. If you check in with the Arc's page, they actually have a voter app specific to voters with disabilities to be able to get answers to common questions, like where is my polling place, but also report inaccessibility.

One thing I want to pause here and talk about really quickly is that when we talk about things like these voter hotlines and election protection, we talk about calling these hotlines when you are being denied the right to vote. If you are not going to get to cast your ballot. In one sense, that's really important because the goal of all these hotlines is to make sure your problem gets solved in real-time and that you get to vote. A lot of things that come up on election day that we learn about are because voters don't get to vote, and then we try to get it fixed after election day so it doesn't happen again. The point of these live hotlines is to make sure you are going to get to vote that day. If you call election protection and you are having a very serious issue, they will actually deploy an attorney to come and advocate for you. They are in many states prepared to literally go into court before the end of -- before polls close on election day to make sure you get to cast your ballot. That's really important. But I think that we are not really capturing the experience of voters with disabilities because voters with disabilities are going to the poll, and they are coming up against inaccessibility. So long as they find some way to cast their ballot, they are not calling these hotlines, so we are not capturing their experiences. So if you go out and you promote these hotlines, with you thing that I would like to stress is tell people with disabilities to call to report anything they see that isn't right. If you saw something inaccessible but the pollworkers found a work-around, call and report it so we know because we can work to make sure that polling place is more accessible in the future. If a pollworker challenges your competency to vote but you still get to cast your ballot, make that call. We want to know that pollworkers are doing that so we can make sure they are being trained properly so it doesn't happen. We want to get more calls from voters with disabilities so we can start better capturing their experiences and making sure we are resolving these issues going forward.

All right. So that's what to do when voting goes wrong. I hope those are useful tools for you. Do you have any questions about those, make sure they come up in the Q&A.

The bottom line that I can't stress enough, don't ever forfeit your right to vote. If you are being denied the right to vote on election day because a pollworker is stopping you, your polling place is inaccessible, anything like that, call those hotlines, advocate for yourself, ask someone who is on that hotline to advocate for you if it's something scary to do on your own. Don't ever, ever forfeit your basic entry point into our democracy and how decisions are made in our country. Don't ever forfeit your right to vote. I hope we are encouraging people with disabilities everywhere never to forfeit that right to vote.

So, with that said, I will wrap up. You've got my contact information here on the slide, Michele Bishop with National Disability Rights Network. You have my phone number and email. Please use it. I would love to continue this conversation, answer any questions you have, hope to problem solve, help you find partner organizations in your state to do this work with you. I am happy to do it. And I will just say with that thank you so much for having me today, and I'd love to answer any questions you have or hear some of your stories.


All right. Thank you very much, Michelle, for all of that great information. Now it's your opportunity, our participants. You can continue to submit your questions in the comment area for those of you participating in the webinar platform. I am going to ask Lauren, our operator, to come back at this time and give instructions for our telephone participants on how they can ask questions and what she has done with those. I already have some questions submitted that I will read to Michelle. But Lauren, if you could give instructions for our telephone participants.

Just real quick, I failed to mention at the beginning that Michelle's full bio is available on in addition to her contact information and the handout, her bio is also available on the Web page. So Lauren, go ahead with our instructions for our telephone participants, please.


Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question at this time, please press the * then the number 1 key on your touchtone telephone. If your question has been answered or you wish to remove yourself from the queue, please press the # key. Going remember that's * then 1 to ask a question. With ask that you please place your line on mute once your question has been stated. One moment for questions.


All right. While we wait to see if we have any questions, Michelle, first I will read a comment, a positive comment that came from a county election official: Thank you for all of the great information and reiterated your point about contacting your local election officials. So a positive feedback in the presentation. So that's fantastic.

Sort of a two-part question, two different things that came in. One wants to know is there any data showing or indicating or anything around the area of disability awareness or etiquette and communication at the polling place, the impact that that has on the ability of people with disabilities to cast their ballot? And the other question, part B of that question, is -- relates to that question in that -- and this question says are pollworkers or election judges required to go -- undergo any sort of training related to voters with disabilities or the accessible equipment or polling booth at the -- used on polling day? On election day, rather.


Okay. Well, first and foremost, please thank the elections official for me that submitted that comment. That's fantastic. That's what we love to hear. My ideal scenario is seeing disability rights advocates and people with disabilities and their elections officials working collaboratively to solve some of our accessibility issues because I think that's going to be the only thing that works. Being an elections administrator is a really tough job. I don't envy the work that they do. It's very demanding. There are so many details. They get limited budgets to do it. And if things don't go well on election day, they are going to be in the media, and they could get sued. It's a tough job. And I think increasingly, we have really unrealistic expectations for the people who run our elections. Nobody knows more about running elections than our elections officials. They know it inside and out because this is what they do every day. Increasingly, we want them to be experts in accessibility. And now they have to be experts in technology and cyber security, and it's just completely unrealistic the things that we are going to find, a whole corps of people who have expertise in all those things and are prepared to do this work, especially in smaller jurisdictions, where you are talking about a county clerk who does more than just run elections. They have several hats that they have to wear as a county clerk. I think that that expectation is a fallacy. I think what really makes it work is understanding that our elections officials are experts in running elections and then having them partner with the people who are experts in access and the people who are experts in cyber security to bring all those realms of expertise together to make it work. So our elections officials who are really open it that, I thank them profusely for leading the way and being a trailblazer. So I appreciate that comment.

So Okay, I've got a two-part question. The first part of that question, do we have good data? Is um, I -- I don't believe that we do ... yet. There's a couple places you can look for data. I mentioned the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and I gave their website, They administer something called the election administration and voting survey, or EAVS this is commonly called. So they actually -- it's a beast of a survey. It's huge and asks for a lot of information. It goes to all of our elections officials, and they complete it and return it.

They are asked about these types of things. They are asked about how they are providing for disability access and pollworker training and all those issues. So they are reporting back on it, and they are reporting I think reasonably positive numbers. I think at least the majority are doing the kind of work that you are talking about. I don't know that that data is as thorough as I'd ever like it to be in terms of really getting down to the brass tacks of what they are doing and how extensive the training they are providing is. I also don't think that elections officials telling us what they are doing to prepare their pollworkers really is telling us what happens in the polling place on election day because what happens in the training and what happens on election day are not the same thing. Being a volunteer pollworker is also a really high-pressure job, and a lot of things come up on election day that you don't expect. So I think EAVS is helpful, but I don't think it paints a full picture.

I don't think we have a lot of research that is looking at this issue specifically. I do think very highly of self-advocates being empowered, SABE, and this is something they are working on, they have a voter experience survey, targeting people with disabilities, kind of reporting back what happened when they went to vote, and it does include some of those things, like did the pollworker interact with you respectfully and some of those types of issues. I think they are generating some really data. The issue -- I work with SABE very closely, and we talk about this all the time. The issue is we need more surveys. They have actually grown it immensely, it's really impressive how many more surveys they are getting back. But we need it in more states and need more surveys coming back from all the states to get a really clear picture. In anyone is interested on partnering on that project j, they are looking for people who work with people with disabilities to get more surveys out there and get responses. They have contact surprises for whoever returns the most surveys. You've got my contact information. If you are interested in getting involved in that effort, I think we ourselves are probably going to have to start to build that data.

The second part of that question about requirements for pollworker training, the really short answer is that there is no legal requirement to train your pollworkers. There is no federal requirement that pollworkers receive any training whatsoever. There are absolutely parts of the country in which pollworkers receive no training whatsoever. To the extent the pollworkers receive any training at all, there is no base requirement for what is included in that training, how long that training is, so it varies drastically across the U.S. If you are a data person and you would be really interested in that, that's where that EAVS survey, through the elections systems Commission, might become really fascinating for you. If you go to, it is online.

What we find a little more across the board, some of them are doing basic disability etiquette training, some are not. In terms of the electronic voting equipment, we find overwhelmingly, just from our interactions with voters and with elections officials, that they are training pollworkers on how to set it up and turn it on, turn it off and break it down. They are not training them on how a vote is cast on the machine, and they are not training them on all the accessibility features. You know, you can change the contrast and the font size and do all these really cool things. I know voters who went to vote for the first time and they came back to me, they said Michelle, I was so excited because you told me about the accessible machine rainforest this was going to be my first independent vote, and it didn't work for me, I couldn't use it. And the first thing I said was it did all those things and you just didn't know it did all those things. The pollworker didn't know or didn't do it. If they had done this, this, or this, it would have worked for you. We find overwhelmingly pollworkers are uncomfortable with the equipment because they are getting bare minimum training on the accessible equipment.

This is one of my big peeves. I really think if everyone had to vote on the same machine, it would become much more of a priority for how we set it up and how we train our pollworkers. So even if you want a fully paper-based system, there's nothing that says you have to have some people hand mark a piece of paper and some people use the ballot marking device. What if everyone came in and used the touchscreen that marked your ballot for you? If every single voter coming through the door had to do that, all these disparities we see in the experience of voters with disabilities and nondisabled voters I think would cease to exist. You would have to be prepared to use it, and everyone would suddenly become really concerned that it's set up really well and working really well. That's my wish. They do that in some places. New Hampshire I know is doing this where everyone uses a touchscreen device, every single voter, not just the voters with disabilities. They are using a system that I really like, I think is really promising. They call it "one for all," but it's actually Prime Free which is open source accessible software that can be loaded on to any tablet or laptop or what have you. So it's happening in some places. I think if it was happening more, we would see more progress.

That whole answer is probably way more than you barganded for. The bottom line is there is no standard whatsoever for pollworker training.


No, that's fantastic. Keeping with the theme, two for Tuesday, a two-part question for you here. First part being what protections are in place for early voting? You know, where there are actual poll places set up for people to go vote in advance in person. And then the second piece of that is what about what protections are there for state and local elections? And for those entities where you have those with sometimes referred to as off-year elections, so for instance, the City of Chicago does a mayoral race that will be coming up in 2019, which is an off year for federal elections.


These are really fantastic questions. So early voting should have the same protections. If the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to your polling place on election day, it should apply to your early voting location two or three weeks before that because the ADA is the ADA 365 days a year, no matter where you are.

That said, there is actually -- the most recent report from GAO issued around the 2016 election actually took a look at early voting and found it was a bit of a mixed bag as to whether or not it was more or less accessible, and one of the recommendations that came out of that report is that they want the Department of Justice to issue guidance specifying that the same protections apply to early voting as to election day. So they do, we believe that they do, the law is the law, but it's a mixed bag as to whether or not that's happening. So there could be some good advocacy potential there. And you should have your right to an assistant and all that, that still applies.

In terms of local elections, this does get tricky. The ADA is going to apply. The ADA is a great piece of civil rights legislation, and it's got some teeth to it. The ADA always applies. Those accessibility standards are always in place. Where this gets trickier is actually the Help America Vote Act, which only applies to federal election. So if you have just municipal election or just a state election that's not -- that doesn't include federal races or anything federally funded, you don't legally have to roll out the accessibility -- the accessible voting equipment that meets the HAVA standards, and that does happen in some places, where they only use it when they have to. I don't know about you. I find that disappointing. I think that to me is another call to action where we need to do some advocacy work. It's not good enough to only make elections accessible because the federal government said you have to. Your voting equipment should all be accessible because your voters are Americans. It's probably going to take our pushing and our work to make that happen.


That's an interesting area, Michelle, if you touch on that a little bit more, because there is this whole focus on federal elections in HAVA, but when you look at when you really take a step back and look at the grand scheme of where laws and legislation and taxes and rules, you know, have an up-close-and-personal impact on everyone, and that includes people with disabilities, that's your local municipality, you know, passing ordinances and property laws, and it's your state and your county. If you could touch on that a little bit more, where we talk about federal elections and get consumed with the media and news and networks, you know, it's the President, it's the Senator who has got control of Congress, but there are lots of other levels of government out there.


Oh, absolutely. And you used a common phrase that I try not to use anymore called offyear. There is no such thing as an offyear election. But those municipal elections, those state elections are so incredibly important. Even when we talk about federal money that goes to disability programs and community living, a lot of that is, you know, chunks of money that then gets determined by state legislature. So your state legislature is incredibly important.

Local elections officials have a lot to deal with your transportation options -- not local elections officials -- local elected officials have a lot to do with your transportation options. So all of those elections are vitally important. People with disabilities absolutely have to be present in all those elections. And I think pushing for the more we help I will say people with disabilities, although I think a lot of Americans don't see the connection between those elections and their everyday lives. But people with disabilities are a concern here. So the more we help people with disabilities to make that connection and see how important municipal and state elections are to their lives, just as much as that big Presidential election, and we push that participation, that to me is also a point of advocacy because the more people with disabilities flood those elections where the federally required equipment is not being rolled out, the more the need to make those elections accessible and make them work for everyone is going to become apparent. There are absolutely local elections officials in this country who say we don't need to do that. We don't have any people with disabilities. That is ridiculous. There cannot possibly be a county in America that doesn't have at least one person with a disability. The reason you don't think they exist is because you don't see them and they don't come to your polling places because your polling places aren't accessible. So the more we are doing that pushing and we show up as that powerful voting bloc that's demanding that access, the more that will happen. But absolutely those elections are incredibly important. There is no satisfying answer as to why HAVA only applies to federal elections. There were a lot of concessions to get HAVA passed. It should apply to all elections, not just federal. It should include a private right of action so you can sue the way you can under the ADA. Those things had to be dropped or the legislation never would have been passed. So we have some gaps that we have to fill with our advocacy work. So I would say push for that accessibility, but also get voters to get to the polls for every single election so that the need to make it accessible for them becomes undeniable and they have to stop saying that we don't exist in their counties. They have to see us and they have to know that we are there and that we are going to bust down that door and we are going to cast that ballot.


Yeah, excellent point. And you know, from the perspective of the ADA National Network and one of the constituents that contacted us for information are those state and local government entities, you make a great point. Make it accessible and they will show up. It's not we'll make it accessible when they show up because it doesn't work that way.

Pass along another -- I am not making up these compliments myself. Another big thank you and praise for the information that you are providing and a suggestion that you, along with National Disability Rights Network, you know, do blogs and articles to get the information about -- that's contained in today's session as widely disseminated as possible.


I am so glad you said that because we are doing that. I launched a blog this past year.


Excellent. Very good.


Easy way to get to it, follow me on Twitter,@Michellevotes on Twitter.


Excellent. We have a few more minutes before we get to the bottom of the hour. I am going to check real quick with Lauren to see if we have any questions on the phone. Lauren, do we have any questions at this time on the phone?


I am not showing any questions at this time, but as a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, that's * then 1 to ask a question.


All right. We will forge ahead, Michelle. We have plenty of questions. All right. HAVA, is HAVA written in a manner to keep up with evolving technologies? And that's something I am asking you specifically for this question, asking specifically about election and the equipment that is used, but that's something across the board for people with disabilities, access to ever-changing technology. But in your opinion or is HAVA written in a manner to keep up with changing voting systems and the different technologies that don't exist now but two or three years, five years from now maybe might be used?


Yes. I think overall yes. There are some things about the way HAVA is written that are really smart. HAVA itself doesn't say what the standards are for voting systems. It created the election systems Commission to oversee a process for creating the voluntary voting system guidelines. That's a process. New voluntary voting system guidelines can be issued.

They can be updated or a whole new set of guidelines can be created to keep up with the time. So you always have the Election Assistance Commission working, and you always have updated guidelines coming out because it's not written into the piece of legislation itself. It set up a system so it can change with the times anding more contrary as technology evolves.

That said, this is something we may need to advocate around as well because the Election Assistance Commission has four seats, a bipartisan commission, they have to have at least three of those seats filled to have a quorum to be able to do this work. There are currently two commissioners. We do not have a quorum. There's actually a new set of voluntary voting system guidelines that have been developed, a lot of work has been done on them. The commissioners do not have a quorum to vote to confirm those new guidelines. So we need commissioners. There should be some advocacy opportunities coming out around that because there are a couple names out there that are being floated. They are actually Presidential appointees, so they have to get through the White House, approved by the FBI, and confirmed in Congress. Currently one Democrat and one Republican. There are names that would give us a full slate of four commissioners so they could get that work moving forward again.

So yes, it's flexible, but it's fragile. If you hear about opportunities to push Congress to confirm those nominees so that we can get a full slate of commissioners in the EAC, that's going to be critical to making sure that those guidelines can stay current and keep up with technology.


Excellent. Thank you for that.

All right. Another question, quick question here. Older Americans, you know, we have out there aging disability resource centers. We know that the people in the age group, the baby boom generation don't -- won't typically identify as having a disability. So how do disability organizations do outreach for those folks who acquire a disability related to age, don't identify as having a disability, but may have the same needs, they've lost some vision, they've lost some hearing? How can we reach out to those without scaring them away by saying this is for people with disabilities?


That is a great point. That is a great point. And I am guilty of this, even in this presentation, really talking about people with disabilities. But the truth is all these accessibility improvements benefit everyone. Not even just people with disabilities or older adults who are maybe acquiring disabilities and not calling it that, but it benefits everyone. Those architectural access standards make it possible for a person with disability or an older adult, but it also means that someone who just happened to break their leg before election day who is using crutches and a cast can get into that polling place. It means that a working mother who has a baby in a stroller can get in and out of that polling place. These good design makes it easier for everyone to read. It wasn't just people with disabilities who had trouble with the punch card system. I hated the punch card system. I had trouble making sure I was voting for the right person and I punched the little thing out correctly.

So these -- I think the more we talk about these accessibility requirements benefitting everyone, even the more compelling -- I think the more compelling our case is for everyone. I think it's also possible to bring more advocates into the fold. I don't think we have to get older adults to fess up and say maybe I am acquiring a disability when I don't get around or see as well as I used to. They don't have to want to go into the disability rights movement for us to talk about accessibility in a way that shows this benefits you too. This is good for you too. Whether or not you identify as a person with a disability, it just makes it better. If you don't get around as well as you used to, you have a scooter, you need that ramp. You don't hear as well as you used to, you don't see as well as you used to, you want to have that electronic machine where we can increase the font size and make it work for you. So I think at matter of how we talk about these issues and talking about them in a way that's really expansive and how these accessibility requirements benefit everyone because I think that that's also true and is probably a more compelling argument than saying can you just do this for us as a thing you don't need when the truth is all voters actually could use these changes.


Yeah, and that's a great point and an excellent point that we will have to leave it at. We have reached the bottom of the hour. You have Michelle's contact information. She has generously shared that with all of you, and she has offered to hear from you, respond to you, and assist in any way that she may.

You can always reach out, again, to your regional ADA Center, 800-949-4232, Our next session will be November 13. Please be aware of the special date. It is the second Tuesday of the month due to a holiday in the month of November called Thanksgiving. So November 13, we will be doing a session on best practices in inclusive employment. Yes, we know that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, but we've got this little thing called midterm elections coming up, so we wanted to get Michelle in here in October and look at inclusive employment, so we have representatives from EARN that will be joining us in November. You can get information and register for that session by visiting That's where you will find an archive of that session. We will have a transcript available within 14 business dies posted to If you have questions about the ADA audio program, you can contact us at 877-232-1990. And I want to take this time and thank Michelle, not just for the 90-plus minutes that she spent with us here today, but for the time that she spent putting her presentation together, for the multiple times she had to speak with me on the telephone in getting ready for the session. Truly appreciate all of her time and energy and expertise in this area. I also want to thank all of you for participating today. You are the reason why we do this.

I encourage all of you to do the evaluation following the session. That helps us. That helps our speakers. It helps drive the top BGS and sessions that we do. We want to provide information that is topical and useful to you as part of this ADA Audio Conference program.

So once again, thank you to everyone that joined us today, and everyone, good day.