One Nation, Uniform in Voter’s Rights; Who Benefits — Braille Works

Map of United States with early 2020 presidential election results and predicted results counting predicted electoral votes
Map of United States with early 2020 presidential election results and predicted results counting predicted electoral votes

Universal Design in Voter’s Rights and Reform

The world watched and tried to understand the complexity of the 2020 United States of America election process. This past election caused many Americans and national leaders to consider the need for more uniform federal election standards. Certainly, a proper universal design approach to voter’s rights reform can ensure all peoples’ votes are accurate and legal.

What are Voting Standards and Why Are They Important?

Voting standards determine how votes are cast and counted. So, states and municipalities still have autonomy beyond the minimum requirement. A minimum voting standard is essential to protect voter’s rights and the integrity of the voting process. Five current standards protect people with disabilities and minorities to ensure equality in voting. These standards do not interfere with a State’s autonomy.

Five Federal Laws that Improve Voter Rights Universally

Over the years, the United States has adopted five federal laws aimed to improve the voting standard for people with disabilities. And, while there is room for improvement, these laws have allowed millions of Americans the opportunity to vote in our country’s elections.

VRA

The Voting Rights Act(VRA) of 1965 enables voter’s the right to receive assistance to vote. The VRA permits voters who are blind, or need aid, to have a person of their choosing with them when they vote. The accompanying individual must be, “…other than the voter’s employer or agent of the employer or officer or agent of the voter’s union.”

VAEHA

The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (VAEHA) requires polling places in federal elections to provide accessible access to a polling place. If an accessible polling place is not available, states must provide an alternative voting method on election day.

NVRA

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) focuses on helping people with disabilities register to vote in elections. The NVRA requires voter registration to be available by state-funded programs or public-assistance programs that mainly serve the disabled community.

HAVA

The Help America Vote Act of 2002(HAVA) requires that all polling stations have one accessible voting system at each location during federal voting. The accessible voting station must provide the same access, privacy, and independence afforded to all people.

ADA

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an umbrella law that requires equal access to voting without barriers. These barriers could be communication or physical. So, a person who is blind must have access to vote independently in the same manner as other people-voting by mail, voting in person, or early voting.

Several individually cut, round “I Voted” stickers
Several individually cut, round “I Voted” stickers

How Can States and Municipalities Have Different Guidelines?

As mentioned earlier, the constitution of each state describes the voting process and oversight. The U.S. Vote Foundation outlines the different ways to vote and register to vote. For example, Connecticut requires a valid reason for absentee voting but will let you register to vote on election day. In contrast, Florida permits absentee and mail-in voting but requires registration 29 days before an election.

Moving Forward; Americans with Disabilities

In a perfect world, accessibility would be readily available for all people. Both physical and communication barriers would not exist. And, people with disabilities would have a seat at every table. However, this often isn’t the case.

What can you do to get involved?

The American voting process only works because of volunteers. Organizations volunteer their buildings as a polling location, people volunteer to work the poll, and others volunteer to sit on the other end of the phone line if people with disabilities experience inequality, unfair treatment, or need to verify information. If you would like to become an advocate or be better informed about making voting accessible, contact one of the following organizations.

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