League of Women Voters meeting details recent voter protection report
By Jana E. Pye, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Darlington County League of Women Voters held their “Voter Optional Responsibilities Training” meeting on Thursday, Feb. 26, after several weather delays.
President Sheila Haney shared that the event was funded by a grant, “Public Advocacy for Voter Protection” (PAVP), from the League of Women Voters of the U.S. to the S.C. League.
The grant focuses on election reform issues, voting rules, proper polling place management, and recruitment of Election Day workforce.
Two speakers joined the meeting, Hoyt Campbell, Director of the Darlington County Election Commission and Cliff McBride with S.C. Legal Services.
Local legislator Jay Lucas, Speaker of the House of Representatives, had intended to provide a legislative update but needed to remain in Columbia and sent his regrets.
McBride shared a recent report from the Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities that was released in January, entitled The Right to Vote in South Carolina: People with disabilities still have unequal access to the electoral process.
“This does not really apply here in Darlington County,” McBride shared. “Hoyt and his crew are doing a fine job locally with providing access to all voters. This deals with barriers state wide.”
The report was based on a survey of 303 polling places in 38 of the 46 counties in South Carolina.
Findings found that many voting places were inaccessible to people in wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility related disabilities. “Some did not comply with ADA at all,” said McBride.
Other issues that were of concern statewide were polls that did not offer curbside voting, lack of consistent signage.
“The signage can affect all voters, not just those with disabilities,” said McBride. “For example, I voted at a location where I have been voting for years, yet on that date the location had changed…and I had a time trying to find where to go.”
Parking is also an issue at polling locations, particularly those in rural areas.
“A parking space on grass or gravel may be fine for most voters, but not all,” said McBride. “As an advocate for people with disabilities I see this all the time. It’s good to see the state is tackling this issue for voters.”
Barriers also include steps, proper ramps- or lack of ramps, and no resting spots in waiting areas.
Voting machines need to be at a proper height for wheelchairs, and signs should be placed where voters can easily see them from their seated position.
Hoyt Campbell echoed the findings, and said that his group works diligently each year to improve the voting experience for voters with disabilities.
“You don’t really get the issue until it affects you,” said Campbell. “When I had a broken leg, I did some traveling and had to get a handicapped accessible room. You would think that those would be located near the elevator, but it was clear down the hallway,” he said. “It puts things into perspective quickly.”
Doors that have proper handles to be easily opened when in a walker or wheelchair, and barriers to walkways were noted on the surveys across the state.
“One of the issues we’ve had here in Darlington County through the years is access to polling locations, and getting enough poll workers for the long day.”
He hopes to see more curbside voting offered at polling locations.
“I also advocate for absentee voting,” said Campbell. “That way, people with hearing and vision loss and mobility issues can have the opportunity to vote in the comfort of their home, and not have to depend on a ride to the polls. If they cannot get there, they don’t get to vote, period.”
According to Haney, the PAVP grant purposes were to focus on election reform issues, voting rules, proper polling place management, and recruitment of a diverse Election Day workforce.
To join the League, contact Haney at 843-332-6468. The group is non- partisan, and does not support nor oppose political parties or candidates. To learn more, visit the South Carolina LWV website at: LWVSC.org.