WAMC New York News
4:44 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Report: Barriers to Voting Access at 3 out of 4 NY Polling Sites

Albany, NY – Despite the new electronic voting machines, one advocacy group has found New Yorkers with disabilities continued to have problems casting their ballots in the November election. Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

Representatives of CIDNY, The Center for Independence of the Disabled-New York, visited a number of polling sites in southern New York State during the recent election. They not only found limited access for physically and visually disabled voters, but instances where poorly-trained poll workers misinformed impaired voters - CIDNY's voting rights coordinator Rima McCoy says even a woman with cerebral palsy who is unable to fill in a paper ballot - was discouraged from using the Ballot Marking Device: "...the poll worker told her, that if she used it, her vote would not be counted until the next day which is a lie, it's not true, and clearly trying to discourage her from using it."

Ballot Marking Devices allow people with physical and visual disabilities to cast a private ballot, but McCoy says those same devices could have helped scores of voters who had trouble reading the very small print on this year's long paper ballot. "We think it's a shame that poll workers didn't understand the Ballot Marking Device well enough, to let people know that the Ballot Marking Device allows you to see your paper ballot in large print any voter can use it."

CIDNY is asking the Board of Elections to do a better job training and evaluating poll workers when it comes to use of the ballot marking device. McCoy says proper signage is another issue - federal law requires the posting of signs that tell people the location of an "accessible entrance" - she cited one instance where a handicapped voter was injured trying to climb a flight of stairs to get to a polling place.

In all, CIDNY found barriers to access at 75 per cent of polling sites surveyed. With the presidential election just two years off, The organization is urging all Election Boards statewide to make sure polling places and staffers are ready to properly assist voters.

Calls to the New York State Board of Elections were not returned.