POLLING PLACES MUST BE ACCESSIBLE TO
Secretary of State Deb Markowitz Is Working With
Clerks To Eliminate Inaccessible Polling
–Today, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz took
steps to ensure that all Vermont polling places are accessible to people
with disabilities, consistent with the requirements of the Voting
Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act passed in 1984.
Markowitz said, "elections officials and people with disabilities have
struggled for years with the issue of how best to meet the needs of
voters with disabilities within the constraint of the election process
and our town budgets. An important first step is to ensure all voters
have access to the polling place."
Markowitz notified Vermont’s Town Clerks by letter of
their obligation to ensure that every polling place is accessible.
Clerks have been directed to report to the Secretary of State by
December 15, 2001. They must identify the location of the town’s polling
places, and certify that the polling places are accessible to voters
with disabilities. If a polling place is not accessible the clerk must
provide documentation explaining why there are no accessible
alternatives within the town and that it is not possible to make a site
accessible before the next general election.
Secretary Markowitz said, "the off-election year is the
perfect time to review whether the polling places in our town meet
accessibility standards. It gives towns plenty of time to plan and make
changes." Markowitz said, "It is our hope that by 2002, each town in
Vermont has added handicapped parking spaces, ramps, or have made other
necessary improvements so that all polling places are accessible." The
United States Congress is continuing to consider amendments to the
Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act. The U.S.
General Accounting Office (GAO) is conducting a formal study of polling
place accessibility in all of the states and will be reporting back to
Congress in the next few months. Markowitz said "Although there may be
more federal requirements on voter accessibility added before the next
general election there are many things that we can do as election
officials to promote accessibility without additional mandates." To that
end, the Secretary of State’s office sent each clerk a publication
prepared by the National Task Force on Accessible Elections that
provides guidance about the requirements of federal law as well as some
practical suggestions for local election officials to improve