More than 35 million Americans with disabilities were eligible to vote in the 2016 Presidential Election. On November 8th, millions of these Americans exercised their right to vote and found that, because of the great strides we have made in recent years that they could do so with relative ease and dignity. However, despite vast improvement, many did not have this experience.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) wants to hear from voters with disabilities about their stories on Election Day. Please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us the good or the bad: we would like your feedback.
Here is an email we received from Jeanette McAllister of Franklin City, Virginia about her positive experience using an EAC certified machine:
"I just had the most WONDERFUL experience. I am totally blind and I voted myself in the November general election! I tested/voted on the new accessible voting machines during the primary – but that feeling cannot even begin to compare with how I feel this morning. I was in tears by the time I left the polling station – for the first time in years I VOTED without assistance.
To the manufacturers and trainers of the accessible voting machines, THANK YOU! Because of you I have the capability of exercising my rights as a US Citizen. To the poll workers in Franklin, Virginia, THANK YOU! Because of you, I can vote right along my sighted peers without feeling "frowned" upon. I am now an equal.
Thank you Franklin, Virginia!
(Note: My husband said I was "skipping" down the sidewalk this morning with my Guide Dog, Hannah – I was so excited!)."
While we are so very glad that Jeanette was able to vote privately and independently, fulfilling the promise of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), we are also aware of many voters with disabilities who encountered problems.
On Election Day, the EAC heard from voters with disabilities who faced negative experiences with the voting process, assistance at the polls, and physical access issues at their polling place. This is unacceptable in our great nation where the laws seek to provide access to all. We must do better.
HAVA contained landmark provisions requiring the secure, private, and independent casting of ballots for voters with disabilities. During the past twelve years, the EAC has worked closely with election officials to promote these access requirements and to foster a climate of understanding in providing assistance for voters with disabilities.
Leading up to the 2016 election, the EAC held a widely attended field hearing in Boston, MA with voters with disabilities, took testimony to improve the process from over 100 voters with access needs, and distributed more than 10,000 of our federal voting rights cards in Braille, large print, and plain language. Much work remains to be done to reach the promise of HAVA. As we take stock of the 2016 election and hear from voters and election officials, the EAC looks forward to leading further initiatives that will improve accessibility and empower voters with disabilities.