Inclusive Electoral Literacy in US
The rights of the voters with disabilities are duly protected under the Legislative provisions of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Electoral Assistance Commissions has taken several initiatives in the light of said legal provisions to provide equal opportunity to the voters with disabilities in the matters of awareness, voter education and their engagement in the electoral process.
More than 35 million Americans with disabilities are eligible to vote. The US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has a strong operational system backed by the legislation, infrastructure and technology to support and facilitate such PwD’s and commitment to ensure that the election process, polling places and voting services are accessible for such voters.
Legislative Provisions under HAVA and ADA
Section 241 of HAVA provides that the EAC shall, inter alia, conduct studies on studies on election administration issues to the ‘Methods of ensuring the accessibility of voting, registration, polling places, and voting equipment to all voters, including individuals with disabilities (including the blind and visually impaired), Native American or Alaska Native citizens, and voters with limited proficiency in the English language.’ The studies are made available to the public and are aimed at promoting effective administration of federal elections. The studies are used to develop a framework most convenient, accessible, and easy to use for voters, including members of the uniformed services and overseas voters, individuals with disabilities, including the blind and visually impaired, and voters with limited proficiency in the English language; will be nondiscriminatory and afford voters an equal opportunity to vote. The legislative provisions, studies and the framework referred to above also include ‘Methods of educating voters about the process of registering to vote and voting, the operation of voting mechanisms, the location of polling places, and all other aspects of participating in elections.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Help America Vote Act (HAVA) require that all Amer¬icans have the same opportunity to participate in the voting process, privately and independently.
Thus law provides equal opportunity to the voters with disabilities besides the voters from the marginalized sections.
Voluntary Guidance on Voter Education for Electoral Process
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, in view of the mandate under Section311 of HAVA, has developed and adopted a series of voluntary guidelines for voter education and election management in collaboration with local election officials and consultative process envisaged under Section 311of HAVA. These guidelines provide valuable guidance on best practices in strengthening the voter education programmes besides managing efficient and effective elections.
Voter education as such, has a significant impact on voter turnout. Well planned and well designed programmes do motivate and encourage electorate to participate in the electoral process in an enlightened manner and in larger numbers.EAC provides cards for persons with disabilities for easy guidance (See Annex I)
EAC’s ‘A Voter’s Guide to Federal Elections’
Voter Guides are highly informative and simple to read and cover all aspects of electoral process and available on EAC website. The guide is intended to help voters including those with disabilities or besides those from marginalized section to successfully navigate the Federal election process in a holistic manner from registering to vote through casting a ballot on Election Day. In addition to providing the basics of casting a ballot, this guide includes information on voter eligibility, early voting, alternative registration and voting processes for uniformed and overseas citizens, and polling place accommodation that make voting more accessible to all sections of voters.
The voter guide is available in eleven languages: Cherokee, Chinese, Dakota, English, Japanese, Korean, Navajo, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Yupik so as to maximize the voter coverage from all sections of the society.. The Guides provide relevant links for helpful resources to voters on all matters relating to election process.. EAC Voter Guides are made available in the Election Resource Library of the EAC on its website.
Relevant extract from Voter’s Guide relating to Voters with disability is given below:
“IS VOTING ACCESSIBLE FOR VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES?
Most polling places are designed with accommodations to make the voting process more accessible to all voters, including those voters with disabilities.
Accessibility accommodations include clearly marked parking spaces, entrances with ramps, and well-marked routes and signage indicating the way to voting locations. Polling places must have voting equipment that is accessible for individuals with disabilities, including non visual accessibility for the blind and visually impaired, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters.
If you have questions about the accessibility of your polling place, or if you need information about voting equipment for individuals with disabilities, contact your State or local election office. (See list of Available Resources at the end of this guide.)”
Accessible Voting Technology Initiative
The EAC’s Accessible Voting Technology Initiative (AVTI) supports accessibility research on transformative technologies and approaches. Through the AVTI, the EAC has produced over 45 solutions for assisting voters with disabilities. The initiatives include the EAC’s Military Heroes grant to provide assistance needed for recently injured military personnel to participate in elections.
EAC Voter Resources
One of EAC’s primary mandates under the Help America Vote Act is to serve as a central resource for information about elections. Through EAC’s national clearinghouse, the public including persons with disabilities can conveniently access information on registering to vote and serving as a poll worker along with studies on how, where and when to vote. EAC maintains the National Mail Voter Registration Form (in seven languages), which can be used in any state to register to vote and update their registration information for a federal election. EAC also provides information on contact information for the state election offices. Resources for Voters may be listed as follows
Register and Vote in Your State.
National Mail Voter Registration Form
Become a Poll Worker
Overseas and Military Voters
Election Resource Library
Social Media Sites of Election offices
The Electoral College
Resources for Voters with Disabilities
This comprehensive list of resources for voters with disabilities includes links to voting accessibility laws and regulations and the latest best practices and research pertaining to voters with disabilities and elderly voters.
EAC’s Resources: Quick Start Series
EAC’s ‘6 Tips for Making Voting Accessible’
The EAC has collaborated with local election officials to develop a series of helpful tips for voter education and election management. This series provides ideas and suggests best practices to help run efficient and effective elections. See Annex II)
EAC’s ‘10 Tips for Voters with Disabilities’
Before you vote in the next election, know the voting process in your State. The following tips from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission examine the options available to help voters with disabilities vote privately and independently.
These tips and examples can help to make voting accessible to everyone including inter alia the voters with a disability. (See Annex III)
EAC Commemorates the 25th Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by hearing ‘How to Make Voting More Accessible for Individuals with Disabilities’ The event was intended to explore ways to make voting more accessible for individuals with disabilities. Commissioners heard testimony from accessibility advocates, experts, and individuals with disabilities regarding the progress made to ensure HAVA’s requirement that individuals with disabilities be given the same opportunity to vote freely and independently as other voters
Commissioners met July 28, 2015 to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of ADA and explore ways to make voting more accessible for individuals with disabilities. Commissioners heard testimony from accessibility advocates, experts, and individuals with disabilities regarding the progress made to ensure HAVA’s requirement that individuals with disabilities be given the same opportunity to vote freely and independently as other voters.
Partnerships with non-partisans
HAVA provides for partnerships with non-partisans for electoral assistance to PwD’s and marginalized sections of society.