Ahead of the 2018 midterm election, improving access to voting while boosting election security and ensuring privacy for individuals who need special provisions at the polls is a critical issue for election administrators and voters. Next week, during our EAC Summit: The 2018 Federal Election, I will have the privilege of leading a discussion that closely examines this topic and am proud to announced the four expert panelists who will join me for that discussion. The panel, “Election Accessibility: Protecting Privacy and Improving Reliability,” will feature:
- Virginia Atkinson, Senior Access and Inclusion Specialist, International Foundation for Electoral Systems
- Michelle Bishop, Voting Rights Specialist, National Disability Rights Network
- Cameron Sasnett, Director of the Office of Elections and General Registrar, Fairfax County, Virginia
- Stafford Ward, Secretary of the Board & Technology and Voter Services Advisor, U.S. Vote Foundation
Our conversation comes 53 years after the Voting Rights Act was enacted, 32 years after UOCAVA was signed into law, 28 years after the American with Disabilities Act, and 16 years after the Help America Vote Act. despite these landmark pieces of legislation, true accessibility at the polls is still a goal our country is striving to meet, rather than a reality we have achieved.
Americans with disabilities alone make up more than one-sixth of the total electorate, yet many are still confronted with obstacles when they go to cast a ballot in an election. In addition, a growing percentage of the U.S. population speaks a first language other than English and need voting materials in another language that may not be provided at the polls. And last but not least, many active duty and veteran members U.S. armed forces and their families, as well as U.S. citizens living abroad, also face significant issues when going to vote.
At its core, the nation’s conversation about accessibility centers on ensuring that all voters have an equal opportunity to cast a ballot privately and independently, a step that should ultimately improve the process of voting for all Americans. Every time there are obstacles in the election process, it potentially sends a message to members of that community that they are not valued and not welcome to participate. We must do better, and our panelists – who have considerable experience helping to ensure accessible, accurate and secure elections for all people, regardless of their abilities – will share some of the most successful strategies to improve accessibility.
I hope you will join us for this important discussion on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at the National Press Club. Please visit our EAC Summit: The 2018 Federal Election page to learn more about the full-day program and reserve your spot.