Module 5: What about voters needing assistance, ADA, etc?
(NOTE: for more complete learning, take the time to click the links in the text below, and review the official websites)
ADA and HAVA: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines legal accommodations for facility access for disabled persons, and the "Help America Vote Act (HAVA)" sets minimum requirements for voter assistance laws in the states. Many voters with disabilities will use the mail in absentee ballot method, but every polling place must be able to assist those who have issues with vision, hearing, communication, marking ballots, etc., without violating their privacy or limiting their access to vote. See County accessibility surveys here.
ADA Voting Equipment: The KY Board of Elections has certified equipment to help disabled persons cast their votes without human assistance. The HB574 voting law says that voting equipment must "be accessible for individuals with impairments, including nonvisual accessibility for the blind or visually impaired, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation, including privacy and independence, as for other voters." Voting on such assistive equipment without human assistance marking the ballot is the first choice for many disabled voters to preserve their privacy.
Voter Assistance Form: Any person helping a voter complete their ballot MUST fill out SBE 31, a Voter Assistance Form. Disabled voters may have a permanent designation of "PA" (permanent assistance) in the pollbook so that they do not have to sign the form each election, but the assisting person ALWAYS has to sign the oath, even though it may be regarded as cumbersome and annoying by some.
Note that the person signing under oath must certify that they are only marking the voter's choices, and are not the voter's employer, or an agent of their employer or union. These forms are turned over to the Grand Jury with the other reports of the election.
Any violations, such as an "assistant" directing or coercing a voter how to mark their ballot must be reported immediately. Even if the voter is not voicing complaint about the "assistant" making or directing ballot choices for them, such practice is exploiting the voter and is illegal. No one (other than a minor child) can enter the booth with a voter without completing a legal oath with the Voter Assistance Form.
In some precincts, enforcement of this law has been lax, leading to lawbreaking individuals directing multiple voters on how to mark their ballots for a particular candidate or party. Prevention of fraud of this nature requires diligent observation and reporting of violations, even when such reporting may draw hostility from those officers running the local polling place.
Care must be exercised to ensure that any issue or violation reported is about the person illegally providing "assistance" without completing the oath, and not the potentially disabled voter who is receiving assistance. Coercion of voters is illegal. The rights, dignity, and privacy of disabled voters must be respected.
- Become familiar with the ADA and HAVA voting methods for disabled voters your county in 2022.
- Ensure that the current Voter Assistance Forms are available and in-use on election day.
- If you are working the polls on election day, be alert for any persons attempting to help a voter mark a ballot without completing the Voter Assistance Form and oath, and report it to the local election authorities.
- Contact your AFEIKY coordinator with any unusual findings, or any additional information that should be in this training.
End of Module. Thanks for learning and being engaged!