In 2012, a Federal Court ordered the New York City's Board of Elections (BOE) to make all of its poll sites accessible to the handicapped, but four years later, the BOE is still struggling to meet the Court's mandate, meaning tens of thousands of disabled New Yorkers could have tough time at the polls on Tuesday.
In 2012, a Federal Court found the BOE was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because many poll sites were inaccessible. It ordered the BOE to survey sites and to create plans to make sites accessible to those with disabilities.
Years later, the BOE still isn't done. "We have not finished going through all of the poll sites in terms of the surveying," said Michael Ryan, Executive Director with the BOE.
Over the course of years, a Court-mandated consultant has finalized accessibility plans for just 59% of the City's poll sites, 706 out of 1,205. A BOE official says a handful of sites have not been reviewed at all. Hundreds of other reports are in "draft form."
The surveys are supposed to provide a blueprint for how to make poll sites accessible, detailing issues the BOE has to fix, like a small wooden lip by the door, otherwise a large barrier for a wheelchair.
The BOE does not own any of these buildings, so they are not particularly interested in putting in permanent accessibility features. They say these buildings have been this way for decades. That means they install quick fixes like ramps.
Just about one-quarter of poll sites on Tuesday will get some sort of temporary fix. "We are making every effort to bring the temporary remediations necessary to these poll sites," Ryan said.
That doesn't exactly appease those with disabilities.
If the disabled don't have access to vote, they won't vote at all.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker