Barriers to Democracy:
Voter Accessibility in
Minnesota
2
Global Context of Voting
53.6%
58.3% 58.3%
82.7%
87.7%
107.8%
0%
50%
100%
Canada Great Britain USA Australia Greece Dem....
3
Agenda
• Historical Context
• Why did we get involved
• The first survey
• The post-election survey
• Solutions
4
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article XXI
The will of the people shall be the basis of the
authority of governme...
5
Minnesota Constitution
ARTICLE VII Section 1.
Every person 18 years of age or more who has
been a citizen of the United ...
6
Recent Landmarks
Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and
Handicapped Act 1984
• Requires polling places to be physicall...
7
Why Voting? Why Courage?
What if you wanted to vote but the polling place
was locked?
For many of the 33.7 million Ameri...
8
Why Voting? Why Courage?
• Courage Center is committed to advancing the
lives of children and adults experiencing barrie...
9
Why Voting? Why Courage?
A study by researchers Kay Schriner and
Douglas Kruse shows that people with
disabilities eligi...
10
Why Voting? Why Courage?
• If people with disabilities voted at the same
rate as the non-disabled, 10M more votes
would...
11
The First Survey Development
• We developed the survey by reviewing the
literature and looking at common problems
with ...
12
The First Survey Data Collection
• We distributed the survey through various
organizations, particularly utilizing the
...
13
First Survey Outcomes
• 97% of the respondents voted in Minnesota
• 90% voted at the polling place, 10% absentee
• 65% ...
14
First Survey Outcomes
• 26% of respondents reported that transportation
or parking were barriers to the polls
• While t...
15
First Survey Outcomes
• 20% of respondents reported that providing
identification was a barrier to the polls
• 11% of t...
16
However, we had more questions:
• We didn’t specify which election, so could not
say whether these were problems that h...
17
New Survey
• We received 127 surveys, returned by
individuals who were eligible to vote in the
2008 Presidential electi...
18
Breakdown of Disabilities
4%
3%
13%
29%
15%
15%
11%
5%
5%
• Neuromuscular diagnoses
• Aquired Brain Injury
• Spinal Cor...
19
Respondents were Statewide
20
New Survey
• 55% of the respondents were aware of
accessible voting machines
• 31% of the respondents had used the acce...
21
New Survey
• 78% were aware that they could vote by
absentee ballot
• Respondents had strong feelings about
going to th...
22
Comments on Absentee Ballots
• “They have to count my ballots if I come in
person, absentee ballots may not be counted....
23
Comments on Absentee Ballots
• “Because I want to participate in the process”
Respondents wanted to be part of the soci...
24
New Survey
TRANSPORTATION
• 34% identified transportation, parking or
drop off problems as barriers to the polls
Barrie...
25
New Survey
PHYSICAL BARRIERS
• 35% identified physical barriers to the
polls and to voting.
Barriers Identified by Resp...
26
New Survey
• Doors too heavy or difficult to open – 17%
• Lack of signage to accessible entrance – 13%
• Narrow or obst...
27
New Survey
ELECTION JUDGES/STAFF
• 14% of the respondents identified the polling
staff as a barrier to voting (increase...
28
New Survey
IDENTIFICATION
• 8% reported that the need for identification
was a current barrier to voting
• In one case,...
29
What are the Solutions
• Long lines
• Difficulty getting a picture ID
• Difficulty physically handling the ID
• Difficu...
30
What are the Solutions
Assessment of the environment
1) Is community transportation available
throughout the voting day...
31
Poll Accessibility Checklist
• Are the doors (interior or exterior) too narrow
for wheelchairs?
• Is there adequate par...
32
Poll Accessibility Checklist
• Is the voting location and parking and drop off
areas clearly marked?
• Are there steps ...
33
Community Solutions
• Pilot project in the Seven County Metro
• Multiple partners including MN Council of
Non-Profits, ...
34
Community Solutions
Selected Stories and Quotes:
‘Thank you for you service today. I had a stroke and
this way the only...
35
Innovative Solutions
• The Australian Electoral Commission has
mobile polling teams that take portable
polling places t...
36
Innovative Solutions
• Mobile polling teams visited hospitals and
nursing homes to enable patients and
residents to cas...
37
Innovative Solutions
• The AEC used road, air and sea transport to
visit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
communit...
38
Summary
• Access to the polls is still a major issue for
individuals with disabilities
• Action at the community and st...
39
Thank You
Courage Center
www.couragecenter.org
Nancy Flinn & Christian Knights
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Barriers to Democracy: Voter Assessibility in Minnesota

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Studies have shown that people with disabilities eligible to vote are 20 percentage points less likely than non-disabled people to do so with similar demographics. This PowerPoint researches the barriers that exist to voting and suggest legislative, structural and community solutions to increase voter participation for individuals with disabilities.

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  • Canada 53.60%
    Great Britain 58.30% This is likely to be increase significantly at the next general election
    USAPresidential 200858.30%
    Australia82.70%Can result in small fines- waived if there is good reason.
    Greece87.70% 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.
  • Total land area of Australia is 7,617,930 square kilometres, whereas the USA has 9,161,000 square kilometers (including Alaska).
    Election costs: $117,264,872 which equals 98.7m dollars US
  • Barriers to Democracy: Voter Assessibility in Minnesota

    1. 1. Barriers to Democracy: Voter Accessibility in Minnesota
    2. 2. 2 Global Context of Voting 53.6% 58.3% 58.3% 82.7% 87.7% 107.8% 0% 50% 100% Canada Great Britain USA Australia Greece Dem. Rep of Congo
    3. 3. 3 Agenda • Historical Context • Why did we get involved • The first survey • The post-election survey • Solutions
    4. 4. 4 Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 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.” Right to Vote
    5. 5. 5 Minnesota 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. Right to Vote
    6. 6. 6 Recent Landmarks Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act 1984 • Requires polling places to be physically accessible to people with disabilities Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 • Provided for ballot and poll access for those with disabilities Help America Vote Act 2002 • Mandates that all polling places have at least one disability-accessible voting device
    7. 7. 7 Why Voting? Why Courage? What if you wanted to vote but the polling place was locked? For many of the 33.7 million Americans with disabilities of voting age, this situation is all too real
    8. 8. 8 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.
    9. 9. 9 Why Voting? Why Courage? A study by researchers Kay Schriner and Douglas Kruse shows that people with disabilities eligible to vote are 20 percentage points less likely than non-disabled people to do so. University of Arkansas Study
    10. 10. 10 Why Voting? Why Courage? • 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 group's vote can significantly impact that group's political muscle. Untapped Power of the Disability Vote
    11. 11. 11 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
    12. 12. 12 The First Survey Data Collection • 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 144 surveys Conducted in March of 2008
    13. 13. 13 First Survey Outcomes • 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. By the numbers
    14. 14. 14 First Survey Outcomes • 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 Physical Barriers to Voting
    15. 15. 15 First Survey Outcomes • 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. Other Barriers to Voting
    16. 16. 16 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
    17. 17. 17 New Survey • We received 127 surveys, returned by individuals who were eligible to vote in the 2008 Presidential elections. • The respondents had a wide range of disabilities, including: Completed this Summer
    18. 18. 18 Breakdown of Disabilities 4% 3% 13% 29% 15% 15% 11% 5% 5% • Neuromuscular diagnoses • Aquired Brain Injury • Spinal Cord Injury • Mobility impairments • Vision deficits • Mental Health Diagnosis • Cognitive deficits • Developmental Disability • Other
    19. 19. 19 Respondents were Statewide
    20. 20. 20 New Survey • 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 How we vote
    21. 21. 21 New Survey • 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 Absentee Ballots
    22. 22. 22 Comments on Absentee Ballots • “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” Comments Included:
    23. 23. 23 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.
    24. 24. 24 New Survey TRANSPORTATION • 34% identified transportation, parking or drop off problems as barriers to the polls Barriers Identified by Respondents
    25. 25. 25 New Survey PHYSICAL BARRIERS • 35% identified physical barriers to the polls and to voting. Barriers Identified by Respondents
    26. 26. 26 New Survey • 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% Barriers Identified by Respondents
    27. 27. 27 New Survey 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. Barriers Identified by Respondents
    28. 28. 28 New Survey 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. Barriers Identified by Respondents
    29. 29. 29 What are the Solutions • Long lines • Difficulty getting a picture ID • Difficulty physically handling the ID • Difficulty with transportation to get the ID • Problem with losing the ID Picture ID We asked if needing a picture ID would be a barrier to voting. 10% said that it would, and cited the following problems:
    30. 30. 30 What are the Solutions Assessment of the environment 1) Is community transportation available throughout the voting day? (not just work hours) 2) Are the judges trained and comfortable with the voting machines?
    31. 31. 31 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?
    32. 32. 32 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?
    33. 33. 33 Community Solutions • Pilot project in the Seven County Metro • Multiple partners including MN Council of Non-Profits, Merrick Inc. and Target • Driver recruitment entirely voluntary- 50+ volunteers in total • Multiple ride options on Election Day including 6 fully accessible minivans • A total of 242 rides given on Nov 4th Rides to the Polls
    34. 34. 34 Community Solutions Selected Stories and Quotes: ‘Thank you for you service today. I had a stroke and this way the only way I could vote.’ ‘Accessible Service + Curbside voting + Respectful Help = One More Voice! A stronger Democracy’ ‘Ming, originally from Shanghai, China and a new citizen. Due to his physical disability he was unable to get to his polling place independently. He called for a ride and was picked up by a volunteer driver at his senior citizen high rise and was excited to vote for the first time.’ Rides to the Polls
    35. 35. 35 Innovative Solutions • The Australian Electoral Commission has mobile polling teams that take portable polling places to many eligible voters who are not able to get to a polling place. • Mobile polling is carried out around Australia during the 12 days before election day and on election day. Mobile Polling Teams
    36. 36. 36 Innovative Solutions • Mobile polling teams visited hospitals and nursing homes to enable patients and residents to cast their vote. • In 2004 2,107 hospitals and nursing homes around Australia were visited by a total of 445 mobile polling teams in the days leading up to and including election day. Mobile Polling Teams
    37. 37. 37 Innovative Solutions • The AEC used road, air and sea transport to visit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their outstations, pastoral properties, small towns, tourist resorts and mine sites • 43 mobile polling teams visited 382 remote locations in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland Mobile Polling Teams
    38. 38. 38 Summary • Access to the polls is still a major issue for individuals with disabilities • Action at the community and state level needs to take place • An examination of the organizational set up of elections needs to occur
    39. 39. 39 Thank You Courage Center www.couragecenter.org Nancy Flinn & Christian Knights

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