Secretary of State Mike Coffman announced that Colorado will receive an additional $150,000 in grant money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the federal "Voting Access for Individuals with Disabilities" program. Coffman will use the increase in federal funding to provide assistance to counties in their efforts to continue improving access to voting for the disability community. Prior to the $150,000 in federal funds secured by Coffman, Colorado had received $580,000 under the federal grant program since 2003.
"Equal access to the polls is a fundamental principle of representative government," Coffman said. "These funds will help ensure that individuals with disabilities have the same opportunity to vote as other Americans."
According to Coffman, counties will be awarded state grants to use the federal funds in four areas: 1) for accessibility to polling places for individuals with disabilities; 2) to provide outreach to voters with disabilities about polling place accessibility; 3) to train poll workers, election officials, and volunteers on methods to promote access; and, 4) to increase voter participation for individuals with disabilities.
"I believe that decisions on how to make polling locations more accessible are best made at the local level," Coffman continued. "I look forward to working with county election officials to ensure that every citizen who chooses to vote has equal access to the ballot box."
Faith Gross, VOTE! Program Coordinator for the Legal Center for People with Disabilities, welcomed the additional federal funds. "Locating and using fully accessible facilities is an on-going challenge in Colorado, especially in our remote rural areas," Gross said. "These funds will continue to improve accessibility for all voters and should increase participation by voters with disabilities."
The federal grant comes on the heals of Coffman's formation of his Voter Accessibility, Independence and Privacy Task Force that advises his office on election issues and their potential impact on people with disabilities.
"Our goal is to make sure Colorado is one hundred percent compliant with accessibility laws for the 2008 election," said Coffman.