For many of the people who make up the American electorate, casting a vote is a routine errand on Election Day. Typically, it goes something like this: Park the car, walk inside, check in, walk to a machine, press a few buttons, leave. Ten minutes well-spent on an important day in our democracy.
If you live in New York and have a disability, however, it’s entirely possible that your voting experience won’t be quite as clean as the scenario described above — at least in the case of local elections.
Why? Because New York State continues to allow lever voting machines to be used in local and school elections.
This fact might not seem significant, but for people with some disabilities, lever machines pose a serious barrier to voting. Sure, they can ask for help from the poll worker or a caregiver, but shouldn’t all voters be allowed to privately cast their ballots?
It’s time for New York to follow the spirit of the Help America Vote Act, which became law in 2002. We must ensure that voting is accessible to all eligible New Yorkers, and implementing accessible voting machines in ALL elections is a huge piece to that puzzle.
Lever voting machines in New York were supposed to ride off into the sunset two years ago, but the Legislature took action to extend inaccessible voting. Like most things, it came down to cost.
Many lawmakers and disability advocates have the issue on their radars, but more work needs to be done. If you’d like to help rid the state of inaccessible voting machines, contact your local state representative. Reps of the Elmira-Corning area can be found here. Or find your senator and assemblyman.