Casey, Klobuchar Introduce Bill to Remove Barriers to Voting for Seniors and People with Disabilities
Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, introduced the Accessible Voting Act, which would support state and local efforts to improve voter accessibility and remove barriers to voting. In the 2016 general election, 16 million votes, representing 11.5 percent of the total votes, were cast by people with disabilities. However, a GAO study found that only 17 percent of the polling places it examined during the 2016 election were fully accessible. As the baby boomer population continues to age, these barriers are likely to adversely impact even more Americans.
"The right to vote is one of the fundamental pillars of American democracy, but that right is under threat due to barriers that prevent or make it hard for older Americans and people with disabilities to cast their ballots," said Senator Casey. "The Accessible Voting Act would ensure the full process of voting--from registering to vote, to casting a ballot in person or by mail--is open and accessible for everyone. Congress should be doing everything in its power to strengthen voting access for seniors and people with disabilities."
"The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, but exercising that right is not possible for many Americans. Inaccessible polling places and voting booths, limited access to transportation, insufficient options for casting ballots, and inaccessible voter websites are all obstacles to voting for millions of Americans," said Senator Klobuchar. "The Accessible Voting Act would help ensure that we remove barriers to voting for citizens with disabilities, the elderly, Native Americans, and those with limited English proficiency. Our democracy works best when all citizens can make their voices heard at the ballot box."
"The strength of a democracy rests on voters' ability to cast their ballots, and the Accessible Voting Act makes great strides in helping people participate in our democracy," said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D). "It is our responsibility as elected officials to remove barriers for our constituents whenever possible. I applaud Senators Casey and Klobuchar for introducing this bill and working to make voting more accessible to so many Americans."
"We commend Senator Casey and Senator Klobuchar for introducing this legislation, which will protect the right of all blind Americans to vote privately and independently," said Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind. "As a blind person and the father of two blind daughters, I know we have fought hard for the blind to have equal access to voting and our continued work is critically important to protecting this right for blind people for generations to come."
"America is at its best when all eligible voters have their voices heard, which is why we urge bipartisan support for The Accessible Voting Act of 2020. The voters covered by this bill--older individuals, individuals with disabilities, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and voters with limited English proficiency--continue to face unique barriers when attempting to exercise their right to vote. This legislation is a vital step forward to break down those hurdles, protect the right to vote for millions of Americans, and strengthen our democracy," said Sonia Gill, senior legislative counsel of ACLU.
The Accessible Voting Act would:
-Establish the Office of Accessibility within the Election Assistance Commission to support and oversee state efforts to expand voter accessibility and serve as a resource for advocates and voters;
-Provide up-to-date voting information and resources, through accessible websites, to ensure voters know how to register to vote, cast an absentee ballot and find help if their right to vote is challenged;
-Expand the number of options to cast a ballot in federal elections so voters with disabilities can utilize the voting option most accessible for them;
-Create a national resource center on accessible voting to conduct cultural competency trainings for election officials and poll workers to create truly accessible voting systems; and
-Increase grants to states to improve accessibility when registering to vote, voting by absentee ballot and casting a ballot in person.
In 2017, Senators Casey and Klobuchar released a report, "Barriers to Voting for Older Americas: How States are Making It Harder for Seniors to Vote," which details how suppressive state laws and inaccessible voting locations disenfranchise older Americans. The report found that strict voter identification (ID) laws, closure of voting locations, inaccessible polling places and limits on early voting and absentee ballots are preventing seniors and people with disabilities from voting.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is also an original cosponsor of the Accessible Voting Act.