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Ruling Demands Better Access to Voting Booths

PHOTO: CIDNY spent years documenting problems that some people have had simply getting to their local polling places to cast a ballot. This example in Brooklyn is taken from CIDNY 2012 poll site survey. Photo courtesy CIDNY.
PHOTO: CIDNY spent years documenting problems that some people have had simply getting to their local polling places to cast a ballot. This example in Brooklyn is taken from CIDNY 2012 poll site survey. Photo courtesy CIDNY.
May 19, 2014

NEW YORK - The Second Circuit Court of Appeals just affirmed a decision that advocates for people with disabilities say sends a message for the fall elections: New York City needs to provide improved access to voters who have trouble navigating some polling places.

Stuart Seaborn, senior staff attorney, Disability Rights Advocates, says this latest ruling sends a clear message to the City Board of Elections that it has not been providing equal access to the polls and changes need to be made.

"We're talking about 70 percent to 80 percent of the city's poll sites that are inaccessible to people who use wheelchairs, or to people with vision impairments. The court is going to require the city to fix those barriers," Seaborn says.

This latest decision, by a federal appeals court, upheld a 2012 ruling that found the city failed to provide people with disabilities meaningful access to more than 1,300 polling sites.

Margi Trapani, director of communications and education, Center for Independence of the Disabled-New York (CIDNY), says this ruling goes to key issues, including a person's rights to privacy during the process of voting.

"It's a victory for people who couldn't get to the voting area because of debris in their pathways or dangerous ramps," Trapani says. "And it's a victory for people who wanted to vote privately and independently, like everyone else, and couldn't do that."

Trapani says CIDNY spent more than a decade documenting, and trying to resolve, all the hurdles faced by people with disabilities each year who simply wanted to cast their vote.

"It has taken a lawsuit and an appeal, but we're finally there - to the point where we can concentrate fully on remedying the barriers that we found, and putting New York City in compliance with civil rights law," she adds.

Trapani summed it up as a "good day" for people with disabilities and civil rights.



Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY