The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), landmark legislation that prohibits discrimination against individuals living with disabilities, has put the force of law behind mandates for equal access in all areas of civic life including access for voting.
Voting accessibility is essential to ensure that all people have the right and ability to vote, regardless of their mobility or their physical, communication or other limitations. Minnesota has made strides in improving access to voting for all. In addition to the requirement that polling places be physically accessible, here are a few accommodations that may provide individuals living with disabilities better access to the ballot box:
- ASSISTANCE: You can bring anyone to assist you while you vote, except your employer or union rep, or you can get assistance from election judges. Your assistant can participate in all parts of the voting process, including marking your ballot if you can communicate to them who you want to vote for.
- ACCESSIBLE VOTING MACHINES: All polling places have a machine that can mark a ballot for you, giving you privacy if you cannot or choose not to vote using a pen. Voting machines display the ballot in large print or with a high-contrast background and can also read the ballot to you through headphones. You can fill out your ballot using a Braille keypad, touchscreen or sip-and-puff device. After you make your choices, the machine prints your completed ballot.
- CURBSIDE VOTING: If you cannot leave your vehicle, you can ask to have a ballot brought out to you. Two election judges from different major political parties will bring the ballot to your vehicle, wait for you to vote, then take the ballot back inside and place it in the ballot box.
- AGENT: In some situations, an agent may pick up and return an absentee ballot from your home. To qualify, you must reside in a nursing home, assisted living facility, residential treatment center, group home, domestic violence shelter or be hospitalized. Your agent must be at least 18 years old and cannot be a candidate. Metro Mobility also provides agent delivery services. Read more details about use of an agent here.
Remember, unless a court order specifically removes your right to vote, you may still vote if you are under guardianship, conservatorship or if you granted someone power of attorney.
Election Day is Nov. 2. For more information about voting and registering to vote, visit www.lwvmpls.org, mnvotes.org, or call the Disability Law Center’s voting hotline at 612-334-5970 or the City of Minneapolis voter information line 311.
This article is brought to you by the League of Women Voters Minneapolis.