After the election of George W. Bush, the U.S. General Accounting Office found that 72% of polling places in the 2000 presidential election had one or more barriers to people with disabilities. While most did offer curbside voting, one out of four did not.
This fact hasn't done much to persuade voting officials to make accessibility upgrades, but ballot problems in the Bush election have caused officials across the country to consider updating their voting equipment. Jim Dixon, vice president for governmental affairs at the American Association of People With Disabilities, said this look at upgrading is an opportunity to make voting accessible to all voters.
State and county election officials say they, too, want more accessible polling places, not only for people with physical disabilities, but for those who have visual impairments, are illiterate, or have learning disabilities. New equipment such as voice-activated voting systems or portable voting equipment that can be placed on low surfaces or laps for voters in wheelchairs would help other voters besides people with disabilities.
High costs keep most sticking with their present systems. The Americans With Disabilities Act, too, can't force officials to buy new equipment. The ADA does mandate that any new equipment be accessible. To the subject of cost, Dixon said, "What price is democracy? I think there can only be one answer. Democracy is priceless."
The community of Riverside County in California bought new voting equipment and figures it will save about $600,000 a year in ballot printing costs. In nine years, the new equipment should have paid for itself. In Boone County, Missouri, a full conversion to electronic voting equipment would cost $4 to $5 million dollars. The annual budget for all of Boone County is $12 million, which means the new voting equipment isn't likely to be bought soon.
Said Sheri Keller, executive director of the Missouri Council of the Blind, who has to vote by speaking out loud so someone else can mark her ballot, "I've never had a secret ballot in my lifetime. Having a secret ballot would give me greater independence." #837
LaFleur, J. (2001, October 26). Disabled voters sample some high-tech help. St. Louis Post-Dispatch.