Californians with disabilities who are voting in the statewide general election on November 4 have an ally in ensuring that they have full and equal access to the process. With funding from the Help America Vote Act, Disability Rights California will operate a toll-free hotline for voters with disabilities who have difficulty accessing polling places, casting ballots or simply have questions about voting. The toll-free number for voice calls is 888-569-7955.
The primary purpose of the hotline is to fix problems on Election Day, so people with disabilities can vote independently and privately. Examples of barriers experienced by voters with disabilities include:
- Inoperable accessible voting equipment
- Insufficiently trained poll workers who cannot meet the needs of voters with disabilities
- Voters with disabilities being told they cannot vote because of their disability
- No access to ballots for voters living in nursing homes and other residential facilities
- Polling places with inaccessible parking or steep curb ramps
- Narrow doorways and aisles at poll sites
- Voting equipment placed on inaccessible tables or stages
- Poll sites said to be “accessible” but are not
Disability Rights California will also use the information it receives through the hotline to identify and respond to systemic issues to make it easier for voters with disabilities to cast their vote privately and independently in future elections. For example, during the primary election, the hotline received a call from a concerned citizen informing that his polling place was not accessible to voters with disabilities because of a construction project outside. Disability Rights California reported the concern to the County Department of Elections, who agreed to, prior to Election Day, make sure that there are no construction projects scheduled that may block access to a polling place.
The hotline will be open between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, the same hours the polls are open. Individuals who speak languages other than English should state their language and an interpreter will be connected to the call. Callers using the California Relay Service, including Speech-to-Speech, can dial 711.
Disability Rights California has several publications regarding the rights of voters with disabilities. Examples include publications about: the voting rights of people with developmental disabilities; how a person using a signature stamp can vote; how a person who is hospitalized on Election Day can vote; and the voting rights of people who are in a nursing home or other institutions outside of their county of residence. These and other resources regarding the voting rights of people with disabilities are available at http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/PublicationsVoting.htm.
For further information about Disability Rights California, see their website (www.disabilityrightsca.org), Facebook page and Twitter @DisabilityCA.