Blanco County News
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Election Watch
Voters with Special Needs
Wednesday, October 6, 2010 • Posted October 5, 2010

Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good: ’Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

On September 1, 1999, Texas became the first state to require that all new voting systems be accessible to voters with disabilities and provide a practical and effective means for voters with disabilities to cast a secret ballot. In every federal election, and most nonfederal elections, every polling place in Texas must now provide at least one voting machine that offers headphones or other assistance to allow many voters with disabilities to vote privately and independently. In certain nonfederal elections held in counties with a population of less than 20,000, accessible machines may not be available at every polling place. To determine if accessible machines will be available or to request an accommodation, contact the early voting clerk of the county or political subdivision holding the election at least 21 days before the election.

Texas requires all polling places to be accessible to people with disabilities. Voting areas must be on the ground floor or accessible by elevator. If parking is offered to voters, at least one van-accessible parking spot must be provided. There must be a fully accessible path from the parking lot, through the entrance, to the voting area, and to the exit. If there are stairs, a ramp must be provided.

You are entitled to receive assistance if you cannot read or write; or have a physical disability that prevents you from reading or marking the ballot. Tell the election official if you need help to vote. You do not have to provide proof of your disability.

You may be assisted by any person of your choice who is not an election worker; two election workers on Election Day; or one election worker during early voting.

You may NOT be assisted by your employer; an agent of your employer; or an officer or agent of your union.

The person assisting you must read you the entire ballot, unless you ask to have only parts of the ballot read. The person assisting you must take an oath that he or she will not try to influence your vote and will mark your ballot as you direct. If you choose to be assisted by polling place officials, poll watchers and election inspectors may observe the voting process, but if you ask to be assisted by a person you choose, no one else may watch you vote.

It is illegal for a person assisting you to try to influence your vote; mark your ballot in a way other than the way you have asked; or tell anyone how you voted.

If you cannot speak English, or if you communicate only with sign language, you may use an interpreter to help you communicate with election officials. You may select any registered voter of your county to be your interpreter. If you cannot read the languages on the ballot, your interpreter may also assist you by translating the language on the ballot for you in the voting booth. (See assistance section above for more details.) If you are deaf and do not have a sign language interpreter who can accompany you to communicate with the poll worker or read the ballot, contact your local election officials before the election and request assistance.

If you are physically unable to enter the polling place, you may ask that an election officer bring a ballot to you at the entrance of the polling place or to a car at curbside. After you mark the ballot, give it to the election officer who will put it in the ballot box. Or, at your request, a companion may hand you a ballot and deposit it for you. If you plan to go alone to vote curbside, it is wise to call ahead so election officials will expect you. Generally speaking, you may vote curbside during the early voting period or on Election Day. Next week, Early Voting in Person.


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