Dozens of disabled voters were allegedly barred from the ballot box in May’s primary election, because of a broken elevator at Nativity Church.
It’s one of Vanderburgh County’s 22 polling centers.
More than one month ago, voters were greeted with a sign reading, “Hi, handicapped voters … Go to Washington Square.”
Polling center workers say they had short notice to make a change.
“The first thing I didn’t want to happen was [disabled people] show up at our site, get out of the car, find out they couldn’t vote, get back in the car and go elsewhere,” says a Nativity poll worker.
Monday, The Vanderburgh County Election Board heard complaints about the sign, and the lack of a backup plan.
Many in the community aren’t shy about demanding change for that fundamental American right.
“It’s as if we we’re either non-existent or second-class citizens,” says Gary May, a Vietnam vet who lost both of his legs in battle.
“If I went to Vietnam and lost my legs to help preserve voting integrity and then come back 50 years later, people like me can’t vote, I take offense to that, that’s a problem,” he says.
Jessica Trimble with Indiana Disability Rights, a federally-funded state advocacy group, is helping to put pressure on Vanderburgh election officials to make every polling center ADA accessible, and educate poll workers with backup plans.
“The ADA is 25 years old,” she says, “we need to make sure this isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.”
County Clerk, Debbie Stucki says most voting centers are ADA compliant with ramps or an alternate door, but didn’t go into specifics before the election board.
IDR can file lawsuits, and their representatives say they often do. However, the group hopes Vanderburgh County will make changes to voting centers before the November election, and avoid a lawsuit.
“They seem very interested and very open to learning more,” Trimble adds.
Officials say Nativity Church has moved its ballot boxes to the first floor for the November election.