An agreement with the Allegany County Board of Elections was announced today that will help ensure that polling sites meet state and federal accessibility requirements. The announcement was made by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
The county will take steps, as required by New York State Election Law and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, to provide individuals with disabilities meaningful access to poll sites on Election Day.
According to the terms of the agreement, the Board of Elections must designate an On-Site Accessibility Coordinator at each polling site across the county, train all poll workers on state and federal accessibility requirements, and work to eliminate architectural barriers that are inconsistent with federal accessibility guidelines.
“The right to vote is one of our most important civil rights and we must remove obstacles preventing voters with disabilities from being able to cast a ballot,” said the Attorney General. “Guaranteeing meaningful access to polling places requires that Boards of Elections make physical accessibility a priority.”
The agreement is a part of ongoing efforts to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the ballot box. Census data indicates that approximately 12% of persons over the age of 18 in Allegany County have disablities, a figure higher than the statewide average.
Barriers at polling sites present significant challenges for persons seeking to access the ballot box and may reduce the rate of voter turnout and participation.
The Attorney General’s office launched its initiative after receiving complaints, photographs and other materials evidencing physical barriers to accessibility at a number of polling sites. A review revealed that some sites lacked an accessible entrance; that ramps leading to entryways were sometimes too steep for use by wheelchair users; and some lacked side rails to aid users, particularly in wet or icy weather conditions.
After the Attorney General’s Office contacted the Allegany County Board of Elections, the Board enlisted the aid of an expert to survey all polling places in the County for compliance with accessibility guidelines, conveyed these results to relevant local officials and is continuing to communicate with localities about ways to ensure compliance with the New York State Election Law and the ADA. The Board has also agreed to identify Election Inspectors at each polling place who, on the day of any election, will be responsible for handling complaints or problems related to accessibility and to train all Election Inspectors on basic accessibility requirements.