Election 2012: A guide to making your vote count

Monday, November 5, 2012
stock art

Don't let a disability keep you from the polls - every registered voter has the right to accessible voting

USA Today poll indicates more than 3.2 million Americans with disabilities feel "sidelined" on Election Day, and voter turnout is 11 percent lower among people with disabilities than with those who are not disabled.

"There has been, historically, a motivation gap by eligible voters with disabilities due to social isolation and a total disinterest in politics," says Miki Gudermuth, executive director of the SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence. "Most feel it hasn't mattered who is elected to office, politicians have totally ignored them, and in turn, they ignore the voting process. On a local level, this same motivational influence exists."

This year SADI conducted a survey about voting in its five-county service area. According to Gudermuth, the surveys indicate most voters with disabilities remain positive about voter accessibility, and many vote absentee because they feel it's easier and more private.

"Some indicated that being in a wheelchair and sitting at a table to vote, they sensed there are too many people walking around or standing near the voting table, which invaded their voting privacy," says Gudermuth. "Another problem was not enough close disabled parking or too far to walk into the building."

Nationwide, Gudermuth says there are additional barriers to voting, and she works closely with the county clerk's office to educate voters and address any accessibility issues.

"Most polls suggest, and I believe, that voter apathy is not indigenous to one voting group or one area of the country. It is a national problem," says Gudermuth. "I advocate extensively that we should all exercise our right to vote, no matter what the voting climate is. We each have been given that right and I don't believe you have any reason to complain if you don't vote for whom you believe to be the best candidate."

VOTER ACCOMMODATIONS

Curbside voting

If you have limited mobility, the poll workers can bring the ballot to your vehicle. If you need this service, just send someone into the polling location to let the workers know you are outside. They will bring the ballot to you. You will still need to provide identification and address verification.

Accessible voting systems

Every polling place must have an accessible voting system for people with disabilities, including audiovisual accessibility. Accessible systems include an audio ballot to make selections, or the ability to enlarge text so you can read the on-screen ballot with ease.

Absentee voting

If you have a permanent physical disability, you may request to be placed on a designated list so that your local election authority can automatically mail an absentee ballot application directly to you before each election. You'll need to make this request directly to your local election authority, who will send you more information.

Accessible voting places

If you have a physical disability and your polling place is not accessible, you may request a different polling place assignment so that you can vote in a more accessible polling place. You may also vote at a central location. Contact your local election authority to make this request.

Personal assistance

If you need help casting your ballot due to a disability, you can bring a friend or family member with you. This person does NOT need to be older than 18 or a registered voter. Bipartisan poll workers are also available for assistance.

Magnifying glasses

A magnifying glass is available at every polling location for those needing it.

Hospital voting

Hospital voting is provided on election day for voters who are admitted after 5 p.m. the Wednesday before the election.

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:

If you were already in line when the polls close at 7 p.m., you still have the right to cast your vote.

"Oh no -- I made a mistake on my ballot!" As a registered Missouri voter, you have the right to receive another ballot if yours is accidentally spoiled or you make an error.

WHO'S MY LOCAL ELECTION AUTHORITY?

BOLLINGER COUNTY

Bollinger County Clerk's Office

204 E. High St., Marble Hill, Mo.

573-238-1900, x333

CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY

Cape Girardeau County Clerk's Office

1 Barton Square, Jackson

573-243-3547

PERRY COUNTY

Perry County Clerk's Office

321 N. Main, No. 2, Perryville, Mo.

573-547-4242

SCOTT COUNTY

Scott County Clerk's Office

131 S. Winchester, Benton, Mo.

573-545-3549

(Additional sources: Missouri Voting Rights Center, Missouri Secretary of State's Office, SEMO Area Agency on Aging)

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: