The Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People
announces that the November 7 Colorado General Election is the first general election required by both State and Federal laws to be fully accessible for voters with disabilities. This includes the opportunity for voters with all
types of disabilities to have the same opportunity for access and participation as voters without disabilities. The polling places must be accessible and individuals with disabilities may vote with privacy and independence.
The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was enacted by Congress in 2002 to improve the administration of elections in the United States. A key provision of HAVA includes improving voting access to individuals with disabilities. Congress appropriated money to state and local governments to remove physical barriers to polling sites, provide information and outreach programs to individuals with disabilities about the accessibility of polling places, and train election officials and election judges on how best to promote the access and participation of individuals with disabilities in the elections process.
"Lost in the controversy surrounding electronic voting machines is the fact that they provide significantly more opportunity for voters with disabilities to exercise their right to vote privately and without assistance," said Faith Gross, coordinator of The Legal Center's VOTE! Program. "Historically, citizens with disabilities have faced many obstacles to voting resulting in a lower participation rate than the rest of the voting age population. The new accessibility requirements will significantly level the playing field and provide a much greater opportunity for all Coloradoans with disabilities to exercise the most fundamental right of citizenship, casting a ballot in private and without assistance."
The Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People, established in 1976, is a nonprofit organization protecting the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities throughout the state. As Colorado's designated protection and advocacy system, The Legal Center is authorized under various federal statutes to protect the rights of all individuals with disabilities in the state.
The Legal Center has authority and funding under HAVA to assure that Colorado citizens with disabilities are able to vote. The VOTE! Program is able to assist in resolving problems related to barriers to voting, including polling places and voting systems. On Election Day, The Legal Center will be available to handle complaints about accessibility barriers and the lack of accommodations at polling locations across the state. Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to call The Legal Center if they experience problems with voting.
"We hope that our pre-election day activities will result in improved voting access for people with disabilities on November 7, and during early voting," said Mary Anne Harvey, Executive Director of The Legal Center.