Barriers to Democracy:  Voter Accessibility in           Minnesota
The Power of Voting“the basic right, without which all othersare meaningless.”President Lyndon B. Johnson                 ...
Agenda  • Historical Context  • Why did we get involved  • The first survey  • The post-election survey  • Solutions      ...
Global Context of Voting         Mali             2 1.3  Ivory Coast                     37       Russia                  ...
Right to VoteUniversal Declaration of Human RightsArticle XXI The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority o...
Recent LandmarksVoting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act 1984  • Requires polling places to be physically ...
Right to VoteMinnesota Constitution ARTICLE VII Section 1.  Every person 18 years of age or more who has  been a citizen o...
2012 Constitutional AmendmentS.F. No. 1577, as introduced1.10 Every person 18 years of age or more who hasbeen a citizen o...
Why Voting? Why Courage?What if you wanted to vote but the pollingplace was locked? For many of the 33.7 million Americans...
Why Voting? Why Courage?• Courage Center is committed to advancing the  lives of children and adults experiencing barriers...
Why Voting? Why Courage?University of Arkansas StudyA study by researchers Kay Schriner and DouglasKruse shows that people...
Why Voting? Why Courage?Untapped Power of the Disability Vote• If people with disabilities voted at the same rate as  the ...
The First Survey Development• We developed the survey by reviewing the  literature and looking at common problems  with ac...
The First Survey Data CollectionConducted in March of 2008• We distributed the survey through various  organizations, part...
First Survey OutcomesBy the numbers• 97% of the respondents voted in Minnesota• 90% voted at the polling place, 10% absent...
First Survey Outcomes Physical Barriers to Voting• 26% of respondents reported that transportation  or parking were barrie...
First Survey OutcomesOther Barriers to Voting• 20% of respondents reported that providing  identification was a barrier to...
However, we had more questions: • We didn’t specify which election, so could not   say whether these were problems that ha...
New SurveyCompleted Post Election• We received 172 surveys, returned by  individuals who were eligible to vote in the  200...
Breakdown of Disabilities                            20
Respondents were Statewide                             21
New SurveyHow we vote• 55% of the respondents were aware of accessible  voting machines• 31% of the respondents had used t...
New SurveyAbsentee Ballots• 78% were aware that they could vote by  absentee ballot• Respondents had strong feelings about...
Comments on Absentee BallotsComments Included:• “They have to count my ballots if I come in  person, absentee ballots may ...
Comments on Absentee Ballots• “Because I want to participate in the process”  Respondents wanted to be part of the social ...
New SurveyBarriers Identified by Respondents           TRANSPORTATION• 34% identified transportation, parking or  drop off...
New SurveyBarriers Identified by Respondents         PHYSICAL BARRIERS• 35% identified physical barriers to the polls  and...
New SurveyBarriers Identified by Respondents• Doors too heavy or difficult to open – 17%• Lack of signage to accessible en...
New SurveyBarriers Identified by Respondents         ELECTION JUDGES/STAFF• 14% of the respondents identified the polling ...
New SurveyBarriers Identified by Respondents              IDENTIFICATION• 8% reported that the need for identification was...
New SurveyPhoto IDWe asked if needing a photo ID would be a barrier tovoting. 10% said that it would, and cited thefollowi...
Problems and SolutionsAreas to Explore  • Photo ID  • Accessibility of the Polls  • Barrier of Transportation             ...
Who is Impacted by Photo ID11% of voting age citizens do not have a currentunexpired government issued photo ID with their...
Who is Impacted by Photo IDMoreover the cost and process to obtain a photo IDcan be difficult for many people with disabil...
Solution in Search of a Problem?2008 US General Elections   Total Voters in MN   2,9,214,498   Voter Impersonator Investig...
Photo ID and Absentee BallotsIssues with photo ID are not only prevalent onelection day.Many individuals with disabilities...
SolutionsVoter ID• Reject the proposed legislation• Allow people to sign the voting register under  affidavit             ...
Barriers to the PollsFrom a 2001 US General AccountingOffice Report to Congress: 16 percent of all polling places in the c...
Poll AccessibilityAssessment of the environment 1.   Is community transportation available      throughout the voting day?...
Poll Accessibility Checklist• Are the doors (interior or exterior) too narrow  for wheelchairs?• Is there adequate parking...
Poll Accessibility Checklist• Is the voting location and parking and drop off  areas clearly marked?• Are there steps betw...
The Barrier of Transportation                                42
Community Solutions Rides to the Polls• Pilot project in the Seven County Metro• Multiple partners including MN Council  o...
Community Solutions  Rides to the PollsSelected Stories and Quotes:‘Thank you for you service today. I had a strokeand thi...
Summary• Access and barriers to the polls are still a  major issue for individuals with disabilities• Electoral access nee...
Questions?Nancy A. Flinn & Christian Knights  www.couragecenter.org                                     46
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Barriers to Democracy: Voter Accessibility in Minnesota

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  • Canada 53.60% Great Britain 58.30% This is likely to be increase significantly at the next general election USA Presidential 2008 58.30% Australia 82.70% Can result in small fines- waived if there is good reason. Greece 87.70% birthplace of democracy. Former compulsory voting, would have to present voting book to get driving license/passport- but now not enforced Dem. Rep of Congo 107.80% USA- 113 overall.
  • Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 Not strictly in the US Constitution. Takes of age and sex, but not universal suffrage rights.
  • -- In fact, the Federal Election Commission reports that, in violation of state and federal laws, more than 20,000 polling places across the nation are inaccessible. -- In 1999, the attorney general for the State of New York ran a check of polling places around the state and found many problems. A study of three upstate counties found fewer than 10 percent of polling places fully compliant with state and federal laws.
  • What more logical expression of empowerment that the right to vote and the democratic process.
  • The most dramatic reason for me, why we need to address the voting issue is this worrying stat.
  • But as a group, people with disabilities are invisible, not included or even identified in exit polling or post election analyses.
  • The voter had to ask a family member to provide transportation.
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • All with no convictions. Convicts voting- people who believe they are able to vote again but are still on parole.
  • 3 counties without transit. Extremely cost prohibitive.
  • Barriers to Democracy: Voter Accessibility in Minnesota

    1. 1. Barriers to Democracy: Voter Accessibility in Minnesota
    2. 2. The Power of Voting“the basic right, without which all othersare meaningless.”President Lyndon B. Johnson 2
    3. 3. Agenda • Historical Context • Why did we get involved • The first survey • The post-election survey • Solutions 3
    4. 4. Global Context of Voting Mali 2 1.3 Ivory Coast 37 Russia 5 8 .4 USA 6 6 .5 France 73.8 Canada 73.9 Cameroon 74Great Brit ain 75 .2 Iran 77.3 Israel 80 .3 Aust ralia 9 4 .5 0 20 40 60 80 100 4
    5. 5. Right to VoteUniversal Declaration of Human RightsArticle XXI The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” 5
    6. 6. Recent LandmarksVoting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act 1984 • Requires polling places to be physically accessible to people with disabilitiesAmericans with Disabilities Act 1990 • Provided for ballot and poll access for those with disabilitiesHelp America Vote Act 2002 • Mandates that all polling places have at least one disability-accessible voting device 6
    7. 7. Right to VoteMinnesota Constitution ARTICLE VII Section 1. Every person 18 years of age or more who has been a citizen of the United States for three months and who has resided in the precinct for 30 days next preceding an election shall be entitled to vote in that precinct. 7
    8. 8. 2012 Constitutional AmendmentS.F. No. 1577, as introduced1.10 Every person 18 years of age or more who hasbeen a citizen of the United1.11 States for three months and; who has residedin the precinct for 30 days next preceding an1.12 election; who presents valid photographicidentification as prescribed by law; and whose1.13 eligibility to vote has been established underthis section shall be entitled to vote in that1.14 precinct.  8
    9. 9. Why Voting? Why Courage?What if you wanted to vote but the pollingplace was locked? For many of the 33.7 million Americans with disabilities of voting age, this situation is all too real 9
    10. 10. Why Voting? Why Courage?• Courage Center is committed to advancing the lives of children and adults experiencing barriers to health and independence.• Empowering people to advocate for themselves, friends, family and the whole community is essential for moving Minnesota forward. 10
    11. 11. Why Voting? Why Courage?University of Arkansas StudyA study by researchers Kay Schriner and DouglasKruse shows that people with disabilities eligibleto vote are 20 percentage points less likely thannon-disabled people to do so. 11
    12. 12. Why Voting? Why Courage?Untapped Power of the Disability Vote• If people with disabilities voted at the same rate as the non-disabled, 10M more votes would have been cast in the last Presidential election - a major voting bloc.• Voting is power, and measuring the size of a groups vote can significantly impact that groups political muscle. 12
    13. 13. The First Survey Development• We developed the survey by reviewing the literature and looking at common problems with access.• We wanted to hit on all types of accessibility – including physical and social access 13
    14. 14. The First Survey Data CollectionConducted in March of 2008• We distributed the survey through various organizations, particularly utilizing the reach of the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities• They were distributed in hard copy and by email• We received 145 surveys 14
    15. 15. First Survey OutcomesBy the numbers• 97% of the respondents voted in Minnesota• 90% voted at the polling place, 10% absentee• 65% of the respondents knew that accessible voting machines were available, but only 44% used them• 64% of respondents knew that they could use an absentee ballot, and 54% said they knew they could request to always get an absentee ballot. 15
    16. 16. First Survey Outcomes Physical Barriers to Voting• 26% of respondents reported that transportation or parking were barriers to the polls• While the individual responses for physical barriers were not high, 24% of respondents reported at least one physical barrier to the polls• Heavy doors, signage, curb cuts, steps, narrow or obstructed paths, narrow doors, ramps, and revolving doors were the biggest challenges 16
    17. 17. First Survey OutcomesOther Barriers to Voting• 20% of respondents reported that providing identification was a barrier to the polls• 11% of the respondents reported that election judges had presented barriers to voting. 17
    18. 18. However, we had more questions: • We didn’t specify which election, so could not say whether these were problems that had existed at one time, or existed currently • We decided to repeat the survey after the 2008 elections to see what the experiences of were in a Presidential year • We also wanted more information about where the respondents lived, and more about their health condition 18
    19. 19. New SurveyCompleted Post Election• We received 172 surveys, returned by individuals who were eligible to vote in the 2008 Presidential elections.• The respondents had a wide range of disabilities, including: 19
    20. 20. Breakdown of Disabilities 20
    21. 21. Respondents were Statewide 21
    22. 22. New SurveyHow we vote• 55% of the respondents were aware of accessible voting machines• 31% of the respondents had used the accessible voting machines• However, 10% reported that election judges being unable to use the accessible voting machines was a barrier to voting 22
    23. 23. New SurveyAbsentee Ballots• 78% were aware that they could vote by absentee ballot• Respondents had strong feelings about going to the polls and voting• Overall distrust of absentee ballots, and whether they would be counted 23
    24. 24. Comments on Absentee BallotsComments Included:• “They have to count my ballots if I come in person, absentee ballots may not be counted.”• “It’s traditional for me to vote in person.”• “Why should I [vote absentee]? I have the right to vote in person and shouldn’t be forced to vote absentee” 24
    25. 25. Comments on Absentee Ballots• “Because I want to participate in the process” Respondents wanted to be part of the social experience as a member of the community, and specifically to demonstrate that everyone votes.• Some eligible voters didn’t know that they could vote absentee, or found the absentee process complicated or confusing. 25
    26. 26. New SurveyBarriers Identified by Respondents TRANSPORTATION• 34% identified transportation, parking or drop off problems as barriers to the polls 26
    27. 27. New SurveyBarriers Identified by Respondents PHYSICAL BARRIERS• 35% identified physical barriers to the polls and to voting. 27
    28. 28. New SurveyBarriers Identified by Respondents• Doors too heavy or difficult to open – 17%• Lack of signage to accessible entrance – 13%• Narrow or obstructed paths, in or outside of the building – 10%• Steps – 9%• Lack of curb cuts at the voting site – 9%• Doors that are too narrow – 6%• Ramps too steep – 3%• Revolving doors – 2% 28
    29. 29. New SurveyBarriers Identified by Respondents ELECTION JUDGES/STAFF• 14% of the respondents identified the polling staff as a barrier to voting (increase over last survey)• Only 37% of the respondents were able to vote without asking for help. 29
    30. 30. New SurveyBarriers Identified by Respondents IDENTIFICATION• 8% reported that the need for identification was a current barrier to voting• In one case, the voter lived in a group home, did not have an ID, and didn’t receive bills in the mail so could not use those as ID. The staff at the group home would not accompany the individual to vote. 30
    31. 31. New SurveyPhoto IDWe asked if needing a photo ID would be a barrier tovoting. 10% said that it would, and cited thefollowing problems: • Long lines • Difficulty getting a photo ID • Difficulty physically handling the ID • Difficulty with transportation to get the ID • Problem with losing the ID 31
    32. 32. Problems and SolutionsAreas to Explore • Photo ID • Accessibility of the Polls • Barrier of Transportation 32
    33. 33. Who is Impacted by Photo ID11% of voting age citizens do not have a currentunexpired government issued photo ID with theircurrent address on it.These percentages are even higher for seniors,people of color, people with disabilities, low-incomevoters, and students. 33
    34. 34. Who is Impacted by Photo IDMoreover the cost and process to obtain a photo IDcan be difficult for many people with disabilities andunfortunately the correlation between disability andpoverty still remains. A 2009 OECD study covering21 developed countries shows higher poverty ratesamong working-age people with disabilities thanamong working-age people without disability in allbut three countries (Norway, Slovakia, and Sweden.)Costs Can Include:• Birth Certificate $26• Marriage License $9 34
    35. 35. Solution in Search of a Problem?2008 US General Elections Total Voters in MN 2,9,214,498 Voter Impersonator Investigations 7 or 0.0002% of Voters Double Voting Investigations 165 or 0.0056% Non-citizens Voting Investigations 9 or 0.0003% 35
    36. 36. Photo ID and Absentee BallotsIssues with photo ID are not only prevalent onelection day.Many individuals with disabilities use absenteeballots to cast their vote. Wisconsin’s recentlyenacted voter ID legislation requires that an IDmust be submitted within 3 days of the election foryour ballot to be counted.For someone in greater Minnesota that can oftenmean traveling a 50 mile round trip to reach thecounty auditors office. 36
    37. 37. SolutionsVoter ID• Reject the proposed legislation• Allow people to sign the voting register under affidavit 37
    38. 38. Barriers to the PollsFrom a 2001 US General AccountingOffice Report to Congress: 16 percent of all polling places in the contiguous United States have no potential impediments, 56 percent have one or more potential impediments but offer curbside voting, and 28 percent have one or more potential impediments and do not offer curbside voting. 38
    39. 39. Poll AccessibilityAssessment of the environment 1. Is community transportation available throughout the voting day? (not just work hours) 3. Are the judges trained and comfortable with the voting machines? 39
    40. 40. Poll Accessibility Checklist• Are the doors (interior or exterior) too narrow for wheelchairs?• Is there adequate parking and drop-off space near the polling area?• Are there curb cuts at the voting sites?• Are there narrow or obstructed paths inside or outside of the building? 40
    41. 41. Poll Accessibility Checklist• Is the voting location and parking and drop off areas clearly marked?• Are there steps between parking and the voting location?• If there is a ramp, is it of appropriate grade?• Are there heavy doors that must be opened?• Are there revolving doors? 41
    42. 42. The Barrier of Transportation 42
    43. 43. Community Solutions Rides to the Polls• Pilot project in the Seven County Metro• Multiple partners including MN Council of Non-Profits, Merrick Inc. and Target• Driver recruitment entirely voluntary- 100+ volunteers in total• Multiple ride options on Election Days in 2008 and 2010. This included 6 fully accessible minivans• A 600+ rides given over the two elections 43
    44. 44. Community Solutions Rides to the PollsSelected Stories and Quotes:‘Thank you for you service today. I had a strokeand this way the only way I could vote.’‘Accessible Service + Curbside voting + RespectfulHelp = One More Voice! A stronger Democracy’‘Ming, originally from Shanghai, China and a newcitizen. Due to his physical disability he wasunable to get to his polling place independently.He called for a ride and was picked up by avolunteer driver at his senior citizen high rise andwas excited to vote for the first time.’ 44
    45. 45. Summary• Access and barriers to the polls are still a major issue for individuals with disabilities• Electoral access needs to be increased, not decreased• Action at the community and state level needs to take place• An examination of the organizational set up of elections needs to occur 45
    46. 46. Questions?Nancy A. Flinn & Christian Knights www.couragecenter.org 46

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