New York Lagging in Voter Access
After the 2000 presidential-election voting flap, the federal Help America Vote Act was passed two years later, in part to provide people with disabilities better access at the polls.
But in New York, the slowest state in the nation to implement the federal requirements, better access may be turning into little access.
As part of a pending lawsuit settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, the state plans to have a limited number of new voting machines this year for disabled voters. Next year, the state plans to install more technologically advanced machines at every polling place.
The plan means that most counties, including Monroe, will likely have only one machine specifically designated to assist disabled voters. Monroe County plans to have the machine available somewhere downtown.
For some of the estimated 84,000 people in the county who live with a disability, the plan is troubling. While people could still vote at their regular polling places with the old lever machines or by absentee ballot, some said they were looking forward to voting on fully accessible machines.
"We were under the impression we would have a machine in every polling place," said Henrietta resident M.J. Schmitt, who is 74 and blind. "It seems very far from what we wanted it to be."
The lack of access this year is angering activists and local people with disabilities, who argue that New York's approach flouts the spirit of the law. More importantly, they question how people with limited mobility will be able to travel from around the county to only one voting place.It is a concern that's being expressed statewide. New York City, for example, plans to only have one machine in each of its five boroughs.
Wow. One accessible machine for all of Manhattan? That's going to be a big help.