Casey, Murray, Klobuchar, Wyden Release Report on Challenges Voters with Disabilities Face in Early Voting, Push for Federal Action
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Aging, Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chair of the Senate Rules Committee and Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the challenges that voters with disabilities continue to face in voting early and voting by mail. The report showed that although many states have worked to make voting prior to Election Day more accessible for people with disabilities, many election officials, advocates and voters report that challenges—including with physical obstacles at polling places, voting equipment and inaccessible voter information—persist.
“The right to vote is one of the fundamental pillars of American democracy, but that right is under threat as long as any voter faces barriers that prevent or make it harder to cast their ballots. This report highlights some recent improvements in access to voting but also makes it clear more needs to be done to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. The report also reinforces the need to pass the Accessible Voting Act (S. 1470), which would ensure access to all aspects of voting, from registering to vote to casting a ballot in person or by mail, is open and accessible for everyone. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this important legislation and address the issues identified in this report,” said Senator Casey.
“This report makes absolutely clear that too many people with disabilities face challenges in exercising their right to vote—and that’s absolutely unacceptable,” said Senator Murray. “I look forward to working with the Biden Administration to address the recommendations outlined in this report, but we cannot stop there. We’ve got a lot of work to do to make the ballot box fully accessible to all—that’s why I’m doing everything I can to ensure that every voice is heard in our democracy, including voters with disabilities.”
“Americans have a constitutional right to vote, but this report shows that there are still serious barriers to exercising that right for many with disabilities,” said Senator Klobuchar. “It is past time to take bold action to ensure all Americans can cast their ballots in the way that works best for them. That is why Senator Casey and I introduced the Accessible Voting Act to remove barriers to voting for people with disabilities and elderly Americans. In addition to implementing the recommendations outlined in this report, we must work to pass this legislation and ensure all Americans can exercise their freedom to vote.”
“Every eligible American deserves access to the ballot box and the guarantee that their vote will be secure. Unfortunately, this report spotlights the challenges that far too many Americans with disabilities still face when it comes to casting their vote,” Senator Wyden said. “Throughout the country, however, we are witnessing steps to suppress the vote that will only make it harder for these Americans to cast a ballot. I’m confident that alongside President Biden, Congress can make great strides in ensuring that every eligible American can exercise their right to vote accessibly and securely.”
An estimated 38 million Americans with disabilities were eligible to vote in the November 2020 election, but too many still face challenges in exercising their right to the ballot box—including vote by mail and early voting options. According to the GAO report, states continue to face challenges in ensuring physical accessibility at early polling sites and challenges with voting equipment—including because accessible voting equipment is not set up properly or available during early voting. And while the report notes that the vote by mail option has increased accessibility—with most voters with disabilities in 2020 opting to vote by mail—challenges still persist in ensuring it is fully accessible for voters.
The GAO report also highlighted the continuing challenges in ensuring voting information—which can include state and local government websites, social media and paper mailings—is fully accessible. Specifically, the report noted that voter information is often still formatted as PDFs, which are inaccessible to screen readers, or difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to navigate.
Though federal agencies currently work to support states in ensuring accessibility, the GAO report recommends further federal action, specifically that the Election Assistance Commission works to improve its services and resources by collecting and implementing feedback from states on how to best meet the needs of election officials and voters with disabilities.