Poll Site Access: How You Can Help
In 2001, after the trials and tribulations surrounding the election recount in the 2000 presidential election, congress passed the Help America Vote Act. Among many other things, this legislation gave resources to Protection & Advocacy organizations (P&As), like Disability Rights Tennessee, to help improve the accessibility of poll sites for voters with disabilities. Each P&A may use these resources to best suit their state, but activities tend to include educating the public about their rights, and educating state and local election officials about ways to make poll sites accessible. Read more about Help America Vote Act programs.
In Tennessee, we use many of those resources to perform accessibility surveys at poll sites across the state. On Election Days, poll site surveyors drive to poll sites and observe and collect information about the sites’ accessibility. We collect an abundance of information about the site including accessibility of the parking area (Are there enough accessible parking spaces?), entrance (Can the door be opened easily?), voting area (Are headphones available for voters with vision disabilities who wish to use the audio ballot?), and more. Since accessibility goes beyond physical access, we also collect information about poll worker knowledge of assisting voters with disabilities. After the surveys, we share the results to the counties so that improvements can be made.
Currently we send our staff out on Election Day to perform these surveys. But, thanks to a generous grant from the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, we have been able to expand the program by using a new electronic platform. These improvements will drastically reduce previous administrative burden as well as incorporate date-driven predictive models for addressing poll site access issues before they happen. Most importantly, this expansion allows us to incorporate volunteer poll site surveyors to help us reach more poll sites on Election Days.
There are about 2,400 poll sties in Tennessee and our staff can only survey about 300 on any Election Day. 2020 is a big election year and we’d like to reach many more counties and poll sites so we can best utilize our new system and address accessibility issues so that more voters can have a seamless voting experience. If you, or an organization that you are a part of, are interested in surveying poll sites in 2020, we’d love your help expanding this program to ensure that all Tennesseans can vote.
Volunteers will be trained in early 2020, and will need an iOS or Android device with a camera to conduct the survey. If you are interested, please complete the interest form below. We are excited about the new direction of this program, and we believe that with your help we can make real, provable, data-driven change in Tennessee.
Will you join us?