After Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, more states and counties in the United States are returning to paper ballots from electronic voting machines. While this may help cybersecurity, it also makes it harder for many people with disabilities to cast their vote.
To counteract that, RespectAbility, a non-partisan non-profit that works on inclusivity for people with disabilities, has put together a comprehensive list of resources for voters. The full guide can be found here, and includes the following several tools and services that are using tech to make it easier for people with disabilities to vote.
- A partnership with Democracy Works, a non-profit group of software developers working on tools to improve the voting process, the Voting Information Project’s SMS tool that enables people to get multilingual information about their polling places and voter registration websites by texting VOTE or VOTO to GOVOTE (468-683).
- Carpool Vote connects voters who need a ride with volunteer drivers through its website or an interactive voice response service at (804) 424-5335.
- Lyft and Uber are both working with non-profits to offer discounted or free rides to polling places on Election Day. One of the groups Lyft has partnered with is the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), which will provide rides through its affiliates in Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
According to Pew, more than 35 million Americans of voting age have a disability. Though polling places are required by law to be accessible to people with disabilities, research from the Government Accessibility Office showed that polling places with impediments, including entrances that are difficult to navigate or voting stations that can’t accommodate wheelchairs, increased significantly between 2008 and 2016.
Furthermore, Pew says the increase in paper ballots has increased pressure on poll workers, who have very little training, which means some end up discouraging the use of accessible voting machines, making the creation of better resources for voters with disabilities even more imperative.