Washington, DC - The Justice Department today reached an agreement with Harris County, Texas, to resolve its lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas alleging that Harris County violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide an accessible voting program to voters with disabilities, including accessible polling places. Harris County’s voting program—the third largest in the country—includes over 750 polling places.
The Justice Department’s complaint alleges that many polling places in Harris County have architectural barriers—such as steep ramps, gaps in sidewalks and walkways, and locked gates along the route barring pedestrian access—that make them inaccessible to voters with mobility and vision disabilities.
“Every eligible voter with a disability must have an equal opportunity to vote in person at his or her local polling place,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “This fundamental right secures participation in our democracy and it must not be diminished or restricted by barriers to access.”
“The announcement today demonstrates my office’s continued commitment to enforcing all federal civil rights laws, including the ADA,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. “I commend Harris County for its decision to enter into this agreement in order to achieve our shared goal of making polling places accessible to all eligible voters.”
Under the agreement, Harris County will create and implement policies, practices, and procedures to bring its voting program into compliance with the ADA. These policies, practices and procedures include: creating an effective system for selecting accessible facilities for polling places; surveying polling place facilities to identify accessibility barriers; procuring and implementing temporary accessibility remedies, such as mats or ramps, during elections; and providing effective curbside voting. Harris County will also conduct accessibility surveys of nearly two-thirds of its polling places. In addition, Harris County will hire subject matter experts to provide technical assistance and training to the County’s staff, vendors, and election officials on how to provide accessible polling places, as well as to provide reports to the parties on the County’s progress in complying with the agreement.
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 has surveyed more than 1,600 polling places and increased polling place accessibility in more than 35 jurisdictions, including Chicago, Illinois; Hidalgo County, Texas; Cumberland County, Pennsylvania; and Coconino County, Arizona.