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Voters With Disabilities: More Polling Places Had No Potential Impediments Than in 2000, but Challenges Remain

GAO-09-685 Published: Jun 10, 2009. Publicly Released: Jun 10, 2009.
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Voting is fundamental to our democratic system, and federal law generally requires polling places to be accessible to all eligible voters, including those with disabilities. In response, states and localities have implemented provisions and practices addressing the accessibility of polling places. However, during the 2000 federal election, GAO found that only 16 percent of polling places had no potential impediments to access for people with disabilities. To address these and other issues, Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which required polling places to have at least one voting system accessible for people with disabilities. However, the extent to which state and local practices have improved accessibility is unknown. To respond to this issue, GAO determined (1) the proportion of polling places that have features in the path to the voting area that might facilitate or impede access to voting for people with disabilities and how these results compare to our findings from the 2000 federal election and (2) the proportion of polling places that have features in the voting area that might facilitate or impede private and independent voting for people with disabilities. To do this work, GAO visited randomly selected polling places across the country, which were representative of polling places nationwide, on Election Day 2008 to observe features and voting methods that could impede access and to conduct short interviews with polling place officials. GAO also reviewed relevant laws and documentation.

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AccessibilityAid for the disabledData collectionDisabilitiesElectionsFacility managementFederal lawstate relationsNeeds assessmentPeople with disabilitiesRight of privacySite selectionStandardsVotingStrategic planningPolicies and procedures