Justice Department Reaches Agreement with the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of St. Louis to Ensure Polling Place Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities
(STL.News) The Justice Department today reached a settlement under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of St. Louis to ensure that St. Louis polling places are accessible during elections to individuals with mobility and vision impairments.
The Department of Justice reviewed the St. Louis Board’s voting program for compliance with the ADA. The department identified architectural barriers at St. Louis polling places, including inaccessible parking, ramps that were too steep, stairs at the only entrance or route to the voting area, and doorways with thresholds that were too high.
The department also identified that the St. Louis Board fails to provide accessible curbside voting and auxiliary aids and services, including headphones for some accessible voting machines, and also fails to provide voters with disabilities the same amount of privacy and independence while voting as voters without disabilities. Under the ADA, governmental entities that conduct local, state, or federal elections may not select polling places that are inaccessible to individuals with disabilities for use during elections, and they must make reasonable modifications to ensure equal opportunity to participate in voting programs.
“The department remains committed through its ADA Voting Initiative to ensuring that every eligible voter with a disability has an equal opportunity to participate in the voting programs of public entities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Daukas for the Civil Rights Division. “This settlement ensures that eligible voters with disabilities in the City of St. Louis will be able to exercise their fundamental right to vote and participate in our democracy.”
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the St. Louis Board will begin remediating its voting program. To make its selected polling places accessible, the St. Louis Board will employ temporary measures, such as portable ramps, signage, and propped open doors . In addition, the St. Louis Board will train its poll workers and other elections staff on the requirements of the ADA and how to use temporary measures to ensure each polling place is accessible during elections. The St. Louis Board will also survey polling locations for accessibility and maintain the accessibility of each polling place it uses on election days. When selecting future polling places, the agreement requires the St. Louis Board to select locations that will be accessible during elections.
This settlement is part of the department’s ADA Voting Initiative, which focuses on protecting the voting rights of individuals with disabilities. A hallmark of the ADA Voting Initiative is its collaboration with jurisdictions to increase accessibility at polling places. Through this Initiative, the Department of Justice has surveyed more than 2,300 polling places and increased polling place accessibility in more than 50 jurisdictions, including Sandoval County, New Mexico; Harris County, Texas; Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania; and Anderson County, South Carolina.