New Law Mandates Polling Places Be Accessible to Disabled Voters

Governor Paterson has signed into law a new bill ensuring that all polling sites be uniformly accessible to disabled voters by 2012, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law prevents County Boards of Elections from obtaining temporary waivers for sites that are currently inaccessible.

"There is still a long way to go, but we are really excited that this first step has been taken," says Rima McCoy, a voting rights advocate at the Center for Independence of the Disabled of New York, "and that sites that had been completely, thoroughly inaccessible for years and years and years are now no longer going to be that way."

McCoy says poll watchers on primary day recorded several barriers to disabled voters -- including ramps that were too steep, dangerous debris blocking entrances and missing signage indicating where accessible entrances were. She says ballot marking devices were often shoved into a corner, which prevented access by wheelchair users. Poll workers were also frequently undertrained in assisting disabled voters trying to mark ballots electronically.

Meanwhile, the City Board of Elections says it will be issuing a report summarizing wider voting problems that occurred during last Tuesday's primaries when new voting machines and new ballots were introduced to city voters.