Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass S.3969, the PAVA Program Inclusion Act, the Senate's companion legislation to the PAVA Inclusion Act introduced by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) in March.
"When I introduced the PAVA Program Inclusion Act back in March, it was with the aim of ensuring that every voter, regardless of where they live or if they have disabilities, has the opportunity to exercise their fundamental democratic right," said Rep. Gallego. "I am incredibly proud to see this commonsense bill pass the House today, helping make sure that voters with disabilities in the Four Corners region - largely Indian Country - and the Northern Mariana Islands have the same access to the ballot as other voters. This measure is long overdue, and I look forward to seeing it be signed into law by President Biden."
"From remote polling locations to a lack of language assistance, voters on tribal lands often face disproportionate barriers to exercising their right to vote--for those living with a disability, these barriers are even higher," said Rep. O'Halleran. "Congress has a responsibility to ensure every citizen can participate in our democracy, and I'm proud to see House passage of our bill to provide a long-overdue fix to the Help American Vote Act, improving access to disability services at the polls and PO Boxes in every corner of our state."
"I thank Senator Lujan and Congressman Gallego for their leadership on passing the PAVA Program Inclusion Act through Congress," said Rep. Leger Fernandez. "This legislation reflects our sacred obligation to make voting easier and more accessible. It makes our democracy stronger. It will benefit Native communities and those with disabilities in New Mexico so they have access to the ballot and can make their voices heard just like everyone else."
"The right to vote is a fundamental right of all Americans, no matter where they live," said Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan. "With the passing of the PAVA Inclusion Act by Congress and signing of the bill by President Biden into law, we will ensure all Americans with disabilities have the support and assistance from the Protection and Advocacy for Voter Access program to exercise their fundamental right to vote and participate in our democracy."
The PAVA Inclusion Act improves the reach of the PAVA program, which funds activities aimed at increasing access to the polls for voters with disabilities, including training for poll workers, maintaining voting hotlines, and examining polling places for accessibility.
When the program was originally enacted as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the definition of "eligible grantee" erroneously left out Protection and Advocacy Systems serving the Northern Mariana Islands and the four corners area of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.
As a result, they are not eligible for PAVA funding unlike every other Protection and Advocacy System in the United States. The bill passed today fixes this oversight and improves access to the ballot for voters with disabilities in the Northern Mariana Islands as well as the four corners region.