Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Thursday, Nov. 30
The Indiana Daily Student


County provides options for impaired, disabled voters

At Garden Villa rehabilitation center, 30 senior citizens gathered to cast their vote.

A Monroe County Travel Board team consisting of a Republican and Democratic representative met with the citizens on Oct. 25. They spent four hours assisting the residents in the voting process, Garden Villa social services intern and IU senior Jordan Baxter said.

The travel board is a popular service offered to community members who have a disability or are unable to make it to the polls on Election Day, Monroe County Clerk Linda Robbins said.

When registering to vote, a resident may request a travel board team to deliver a ballot prior to Election Day. During this election season, 97 individuals in the county have used the travel board service so far, Robbins said.

Baxter said a woman approached her to express how appreciative she was for the opportunity to vote.

“Being able to do it in a place where she’s living was huge to her,” Baxter said. “A lot of them saw it as their last opportunity to vote.”

A voter can request the service on Election Day with approval from the election board.

IU Health Bloomington has used the service for patients unable to leave on Election Day, Media Relations Coordinator Amanda Roach said.

In Monroe County, voting accessibility has been an ongoing concern since Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, in 2002.

The act was passed to provide election reform nationally and bring uniformity to state elections, according to an Indiana state plan of implementation. This reform includes provisions for voters with disabilities, such as the requirement for each voting location to be handicapped accessible.

Legislation existed in Indiana prior to HAVA, but more laws were enacted in 2004 and 2005 to address detailed aspects of HAVA implementation.

Robbins said for those voters who are visually or otherwise impaired, the County offers an electronic device at every polling location that reads the options on the ballot.

The eSlate device has a wheel and buttons with braille, allowing voters to navigate the electronic ballot, Robbins said.

As the page scrolls, a voice reads the race and candidates’ names into headphones.
“For people who are arthritic and have trouble staying in a box or have hand-eye coordination issues, this is good for them, too,” Robbins said.

The eSlate device is a recent upgrade that was incorporated into polls during the spring primaries, Robbins said.

The devices cost about $2,700 each and were purchased with a grant for HAVA-compliant equipment, she said.

In addition to the eSlate devices, Robbins said polling stations provide a call button that voters can use to ask for assistance from a judge if needed.

In compliancy with HAVA, each polling location must offer adequate wheelchair accessibility by providing ramps, wide doorways and handicap-accessible parking lots.

Robbins said a major challenge the county faces is the fact that there are 82 separate voting precincts but only 47 voting locations.

“We don’t have a building in each precinct that could pass HAVA compliancy,” she said.

Due to the historic characteristics of many of the buildings, it is not possible for the county to make necessary modifications for handicap accessibility simply for the two days of voting, Robbins said.

Suzie Rimstidt, Monroe County outreach coordinator for the Southern Indiana Center for Independent Living, said she was a member of the HAVA committee that assessed voter accessibility in the county eight years ago.

Each election year, Rimstidt surveys accessibility at the polls. She said she complained to election officials during the spring primaries after finding a lack of handicapped accessibility at a local church.

“It was a joke,” she said. “They had a totally accessible entrance to the building, but that entrance was locked.”

She said although there was a temporary ramp, voters had to climb four steps to get to the ramp.

“Some places have unintended consequences,” Rimstidt said. “It’s a matter of education.”

Get stories like this in your inbox