Washington, DC - The Department of Justice Thursday reached a settlement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with McKinley County, New Mexico, to ensure that the County’s polling places are accessible to individuals with mobility and vision impairments. The County is home to the Zuni Pueblo and parts of the Navajo Nation, and more than two dozen of the County’s polling places are located on Indian reservations.
Based on a complaint, the Department of Justice surveyed and assessed the County’s voting program for compliance with the ADA. The Department’s survey identified architectural barriers under the ADA at County polling places, including inaccessible parking, ramps that were too steep, and doorways that were too narrow. Under the ADA, counties that conduct local, state, or federal elections may not select polling places that are inaccessible during elections to individuals with disabilities. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, McKinley County will begin remediating its voting program in time for its next election. To make its selected polling places accessible, the County will employ temporary measures, such as portable ramps, signage, and propped open doors, as well as certain permanent changes, such as paved parking and ramps. In addition, the County will train its poll workers on the requirements of the ADA and how to use temporary measures to ensure each polling place is accessible during elections. Furthermore, the County will survey polling locations for accessibility and maintain the accessibility of each polling place it uses on Election Day. When selecting future polling places, the agreement requires the County to select locations that will be accessible during elections. The Department of Justice will monitor the County’s compliance with the agreement and provide the County with technical assistance.
“Through this settlement, McKinley County will ensure that its polling places are accessible to voters with disabilities so that they have an equal opportunity to exercise one of their most fundamental rights, the right to vote,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud the County’s commitment to providing equal access to the polls.”
“The right to cast a ballot and participate in elections is at the heart of our democracy,” said John C. Anderson, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. “Disability should never stand as an impediment to the exercise of this fundamental right. Today’s settlement ensures the citizens of McKinley County that their polling places will be accessible to all eligible voters.”
This settlement is part of the Department’s ADA Voting Initiative, which focuses on protecting the voting rights of individuals with disabilities. A hallmark of the ADA Voting Initiative is its collaboration with jurisdictions to increase accessibility at polling places. Through this Initiative, the Department of Justice has surveyed more than 1,600 polling places and increased polling place accessibility in more than 35 jurisdictions, including Harris County, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Richland County, South Carolina; and Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.
For more information about the ADA and today’s agreement, please visit http://www.ada.gov or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).