GAO interim report on polling place accessibility in 2008

The GAO issued this interim report recently, “Voters With Disabilities: More Polling Places Had No Potential Impediments Than in 20008, but Challenges Remain.”

Here’s a summary of their results:

We found that,comparedto 2000, the proportion of polling places withoutpotential impediments increased and the most significant reduction in potential impediments occurred at building entrances. We estimate that 27 percent of polling places had no features that might impede access to the voting area for people with disabilities—up from 16 percent in 2000; 45 percent of the polling places had potential impediments but offered curbside voting; and the remaining 27 percent of polling places had potential impediments and did not offer curbside voting. While the percent of polling places with multiple impediments decreased significantly from 2000, still a fair number—16 percent—had four or more potential impediments in 2008. The most significant reduction since 2000 was that potential impediments at building entrances—such as narrow doorways—decreased from 59 percent to 25 percent.

Most polling places we visited on Election Day 2008 had features in the voting area to facilitate private and independent voting, while some had features that could pose challenges. Virtually all polling places had at least one voting system—typically an accessible voting machine in a voting station—to facilitate private and independent voting for people with disabilities. However, we found that 29 percent of the voting stations were not arranged to accommodate a wheelchair. Seventy-seven percent of polling places had voting stations with accessible machines that offered the same or more privacy than stations for other voters, while the remaining polling places had stations that offered less privacy. For example, some voting stations were not positioned to prevent others from seeing how voters using the accessible machines were marking their ballots.