Minority Press

Casey, Klobuchar Release Report on Barriers to Voting for Older Americans

Senators: We Have a Duty to Protect the Voting Rights of All Americans—Including Seniors


Read the Voting Rights Report Executive Summary

 

Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the Special Committee on Aging, and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Committee on Rules and Administration, released a report, “Barriers to Voting for Older Americans: How States are Making it Harder for Seniors to Vote,” which details how suppressive state laws and inaccessible voting locations disenfranchise older Americans.

 

The report finds that strict voter identification (ID) laws, closure of voting locations, inaccessible polling places and limits on early voting and absentee ballots are preventing seniors and people with disabilities from casting votes.

 

“The right to vote is one of the fundamental pillars of American democracy. But, that right is under threat for millions of older Americans and individuals with disabilities across the nation,” Sen. Bob Casey said. “This report brings awareness to the unique challenges that seniors face in exercising their constitutional right. We must work to ensure that all Americans have equal access to the voting booth.”

 

“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, but exercising that right is becoming harder and harder for many Americans, especially our seniors.  Long lines, inaccessible polling places, and strict voter ID laws have become barriers to voting for older Americans,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “This important report shines a light on the hardships these voters face and proposes common sense solutions to make voting easier for everyone. We need to do more to restore Americans’ confidence in our political system. Our first step should be making it easier for their voices to be heard on Election Day.”

 

The report also includes new information from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that only 17 percent of the polling places it examined during the 2016 election were fully accessible. Most polling places GAO examined had one or more impediments from parking to the voting area and had accessible voting stations that could impede private and independent voting.

 

Suppressive voting laws and issues of accessibility affect tens of millions of older Americans and people with disabilities. In the 2016 election, 30 percent of the voters were between the ages of 50 and 64-years-old and 13 percent were 65 and older. Sixteen million (11.5 percent) of the 139 million votes were cast by people with disabilities. As the baby boomer population continues to age, these restrictions and barriers are likely to adversely impact more Americans.

 

To address these challenges, the report recommends the following steps to protect the voting rights of older Americans and individuals with disabilities:

 

  • Ensure the full authorization and empowerment of all federal voting laws, which will help facilitate older Americans’ access to the polls; 

 

  • Provide access to the polls for older Americans by allowing opportunities for accessible early voting and absentee voting; and

 

  • Limit restrictions on voting and ensure election laws fully consider the needs and abilities of older    Americans.

 

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law commented, “We applaud Sen. Casey and Sen. Klobuchar for focusing on the importance of voting access for older Americans. Unfortunately, in far too many places across the country, federal laws intended to facilitate voting by older Americans and Americans with disabilities have gone un- or under-enforced. Worse, in many places, legislators are imposing new restrictions on voting that negatively impact older Americans,” said Wendy Weiser, Director, Democracy Program and Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director, Washington, D.C. office. “We hope this report will shed light on these problems and prompt a renewed commitment to ensuring that all Americans can participate in our elections, regardless of age or disability.”

 

Read the full voting rights report.

Read the GAO report on polling place accessibility here.

 

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