From the Desk of Day Al-Mohamed

Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs

Washington Connection – Report Voting Access Problems

November 1, 2006

Voting is the cornerstone of American society. It is how individuals express their opinions and thoughts on issues. It is the most powerful check on government and one of our greatest opportunities to influence the shape of this great nation.

Because of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) a private and independent vote was finally required for people who are blind and visually impaired. However, as many of you have stated in your emails and even more of you have noticed in your local counties and states, the implementation of this access requirement is less than perfect. Even, in some areas, less than effective.

There have been a number of emails and messages about where to call if you have problems voting and I don’t doubt that many, if not all of them are valid. But ACB wants to make sure that if you run into a voting rights problem, your issue is solved in a satisfactory manner and that your voice is heard.

Those are, in fact, two different issues and as such we are encouraging you to utilize two different numbers. The Election Protection Coalition is hosting a hotline at 1-866-687-8683, where voters can call to report problems and receive advice on what to do. The Election Protection Coalition is a nonpartisan alliance of civil rights and civic organizations committed to protecting the rights of all voters to cast their ballot. They are supported by the National Disability Rights Network to make sure they are cognizant of the disability access issues related to voting.

ACB encourages you to contact this number if you have a problem AT THE TIME (all caps) of the violation as this number is an immediate, on-the-spot resource staffed by lawyers, law students and other volunteers trained to resolve voting problems. This offers the best resource to help guarantee that your rights are upheld.

The second number that we encourage you to call later, after you have gone home is the Department of Justice at 1-800-253-3931. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has set up a system to collect complaints when voters with disabilities have access problems voting. Considering that the DOJ is the enforcer of the access laws, it is critical that they are made aware of every voting access problem that occurs and where it is.

It is absolutely essential that we take advantage of this. As has been the case in the past, some agencies will simply say – we didn’t get any reports of any problems and no one called in any complaints, so there mustn’t be any problems.

HAVA as legislation successfully passed, but for it to be meaningful, we must continue to demand that full access to a private and independent vote is granted; not just in theory, but in practice. And that we will accept nothing less.

Again, that number for immediate assistance at Election Protection is: 1-866-687-8683. And the number for DOJ complaints for the formal record is: 1-800-253-3931.

Day Al-Mohamed

Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs

American Council of the Blind

1155 15th St. NW

Washington DC 20005

Tel. 202-467-5081