Posts Tagged ‘election’

Aftermath

November 10, 2008

You don’t need me to tell you that it was a hell of an election.

Literally thousands of blogs have covered the election results. Unless you’re in a few select states with very close races, you already know how things came out. Heck, some of us (ahem) were up way too late dancing in the streets on Tuesday night because of how things came out. I wasn’t nearly so cheerful earlier in the day, though, when I tried to vote. I eventually succeeded, despite the best efforts of the local poll workers.

My polling place had no line at all, since I went just after the morning rush. I asked for and was escorted to the accessible voting machine, as I’m fortunate enough to live in a city that boasts one at every polling place. I put on the headphones, cranked up the large print and high contrast, and was cheerfully instructed to insert my ballot. But where? I felt all over the machine and found a likely slot, but it wouldn’t accept the ballot. I couldn’t find any other slot. I’ll admit that I’m not the most mechanically inclined person on the planet, so after a few minutes of waving my hand and calling for help, I caught the attention of a fellow voter who flagged down a poll worker for me. The lady came over and read the instructions over my shoulder.

“‘Insert ballot.’ Okay, go ahead and insert the ballot.”
I’d gotten that far. “Where?”

She couldn’t figure out where it went either. After she’d tried several times, I asked her if she’d been trained on these machines. I’d been assured previously by the city that all poll workers had been trained on the accessible machines. “Oh, sure,” she replied, “I just didn’t pay attention to that part.”

After pointing out that these machines were the only way some people could vote and getting a similarly unconcerned response, I decided that this woman had forfeited all rights to politeness. I’m not sure what exactly I said to her, but I was pretty proud of myself for refraining from swearing. Her compatriots seemed equally unhelpful and equally unrepentant. It took three or four people and probably twenty minutes before they brought over the head of the precinct, who ascertained that the machine hadn’t been set up properly, and the insertion slot wasn’t actually open. After that, it took me five minutes to vote and get out of there, including sneaking an extra I VOTED sticker for my guide dog, who had been very patient. At least the bake sale taking place outside the door was fantastic. Other than that, I was pretty disgusted.

I asked around for feedback from other voters, and I received a variety of answers. Some voters talked about crowded polling places with no room for folks with wheelchairs and other mobility aids to maneuver and no privacy for the accessible voting booths and machines. In some places, the lines to vote snaked down the entrance ramps, blocking access for voters using wheelchairs or scooters. One blind voter from the South said that there wasn’t an accessible voting machine in her entire county. On the other hand, I also heard about polling places that had a staff person entirely devoted to staffing and assisting with the accessible voting booth and machine. So while we still have miles to go, some places are doing the right thing.

If you’ve got stories you’d like to share, please send them in. History was made this week, and I want to know if you were able to be a part of it, no matter how you voted.

Gimp the vote!

November 3, 2008

First of all, I’m really interested to hear about people’s voting experiences, particularly around disability access issues, so please feel free to drop me a comment and let me know how things went in your neck of the woods.  Rumor has it that my fair city has an accessible voting machine at every polling place, and I’m hoping that the poll workers (whose work I appreciate greatly, in all seriousness) are willing to, say, plug them in.

Second, my dear friend J. has helpfully put up this page full of useful links for voters with disabilities, with an emphasis on Massachusetts voters.  The Disability Law Center of Massachusetts will also be open and taking calls from Massachusetts voters with disabilities with questions or complaints about access  to voting.   They can be reached by phone at (800) 872-9992 or by TTY at (800) 381-0577.  Here’s hoping you don’t need them.

Third, United Cerebral Palsy, aka UCP, is using the microblogging site Twitter to track where people with disabilities are and are not having access issues at the polls.  If you use or are interested in using Twitter, they’ve provided instructions for participating; if you don’t, they’ll tell you how to keep an eye on things via their blog and other non-Twitter sites.

Fourth, if you are eligible to vote in the US and you have not yet voted (this early voting thing is all trendy all of a sudden, eh?), please do so.  Not only is it your right as a citizen, but so many people are still being denied the right to an independent, anonymous vote that it’s really an insult to them to eschew your opportunity if you have one.  I’m not in the habit of playing more-oppressed-than-thou – frankly, we’re all in this together – but if anyone else experienced the regular and rampant violation of voting rights that happens to people with disabilities as a matter of course, there’d be riots in the streets.  I’m not saying that these things don’t happen to anyone else.  I’m saying that they happen all the time to us, and it’s not on the radar at all.

On that cheerful note, go forth and vote.  And if you’re in Massachusetts, please, please consider voting against Proposition 1.  Eliminating the state income tax would pretty much end any public services for people with disabilities in our fair commonwealth, not to mention elder services, lots of educational and health care programs, and thousands of jobs.  Voting for Proposition 1 will not make a statement, it will bite off our nose to spite our face.  This seems to me like a dumb idea.  So please don’t.

Thanks, and happy Election Day!  Don’t forget to chime in on how yours went!  I’ll be voting before work tomorrow, and gnawing my arm off in front of the TV with friends and loved ones after work.