A.G. Schneiderman Announces Agreement With Allegany County Board Of Elections To Ensure Polling Place Accessibility

Allegany County Board Of Elections Enters Into Agreement Providing Roadmap To Ensure Poll Site Access For Voters With Disabilities

Schneiderman: Cooperation Of County And Local Officials Will Help Eliminate Physical Barriers To The Ballot Box

ALBANY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with the Allegany County Board of Elections that will help ensure that polling sites meet state and federal accessibility requirements. The county will undertake steps pursuant to New York State Election Law and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which require election officials to provide individuals with disabilities meaningful access to poll sites on Election Day. Pursuant to the agreement, the Board of Elections is required to designate an On-Site Accessibility Coordinator at each polling site across the county, train all poll workers on state and federal accessibility requirements, and work to eliminate architectural barriers that are inconsistent with federal accessibility guidelines.

“The right to vote is one of our most important civil rights and we must remove obstacles preventing voters with disabilities from being able to cast a ballot. Guaranteeing meaningful access to polling places requires that Boards of Elections make physical accessibility a priority,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The Allegany County Board of Elections has agreed to make polling place accessibility a reality by working with our Office and local officials well before the next elections are held. We look forward to working with other Boards of Elections around the state to undertake similar proactive measures to ensure that all voters can participate in elections conducted in the year ahead.”

This agreement is a part of Attorney General Schneiderman's ongoing efforts to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the ballot box. Census data indicates that approximately 12% of persons over the age of 18 in Allegany County have disablities, a figure higher than the statewide average.

Barriers at polling sites present significant challenges for persons seeking to access the ballot box and may reduce the rate of voter turnout and participation.

The Attorney General’s Office is continuing to work with Boards across the state to enforce the legal obligation to provide accessible polling places and protect fully the right to vote for individuals with disabilities.

Susan Dooha, Executive Director at Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York,said, “Individuals with disabilities, experience firsthand the problems that emerge when polling sites are inaccessible. We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s efforts for working to address these problems across our state.”

The Attorney General’s office launched its initiative after receiving complaints, photographs and other materials evidencing physical barriers to accessibility at a number of polling sites. The office's review revealed that some sites lacked an accessible entrance; that ramps leading to entryways were sometimes too steep for use by wheelchair users; and some lacked side rails to aid users, particularly in wet or icy weather conditions. After the Attorney General's Office contacted the Allegany County Board of Elections, the Board enlisted the aid of an expert to survey all polling places in the County for compliance with accessibility guidelines, conveyed these results to relevant local officials and is continuing to communicate with localities about ways to ensure compliance with the New York State Election Law and the ADA. The Board has also agreed to identify Election Inspectors at each polling place who, on the day of any election, will be responsible for handling complaints or problems related to accessibility and to train all Election Inspectors on basic accessibility requirements.

This initiative is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Anjana Samant, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel. The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General's Office is committed to protecting the voting rights of all New Yorkers. If you believe that you have experienced voting discrimination, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

A copy of today’s agreement can be found here: www.ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/press-releases/2013/Allegany%20County%20MOA%20Final.pdf

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