Voters With Disabilities: More Polling Places Had No Potential Impediments Than in 2000, but Challenges Remain Page: 2 of 47
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Accountability. Integrity* Reliability
Highlights of GAO-09-685, a report to
Why GAO Did This Study
Voting is fundamental to our
democratic system, and federal law
generally requires polling places to
be accessible to all eligible voters,
including those with disabilities. In
response, states and localities have
implemented provisions and
practices addressing the
accessibility of polling places.
However, during the 2000 federal
election, GAO found that only 16
percent of polling places had no
potential impediments to access for
people with disabilities. To address
these and other issues, Congress
enacted the Help America Vote Act
of 2002, which required polling
places to have at least one voting
system accessible for people with
disabilities. However, the extent to
which state and local practices
have improved accessibility is
To respond to this issue, GAO
determined (1) the proportion of
polling places that have features in
the path to the voting area that
might facilitate or impede access to
voting for people with disabilities
and how these results compare to
our findings from the 2000 federal
election and (2) the proportion of
polling places that have features in
the voting area that might facilitate
or impede private and independent
voting for people with disabilities.
To do this work, GAO visited
randomly selected polling places
across the country, which were
representative of polling places
nationwide, on Election Day 2008
to observe features and voting
methods that could impede access
and to conduct short interviews
with polling place officials. GAO
also reviewed relevant laws and
View GAO-09-685 or key components.
For more information, contact Barbara
Bovbjerg at (202) 512-7215 or
firstname.lastname@example.org; or William O. Jenkins,
Jr. at (202) 512-8777 or email@example.com.
VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES
More Polling Places Had No Potential Impediments
Than in 2000, but Challenges Remain
What GAO Found
We found that, compared to 2000, the proportion of polling places without
potential 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
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.
Proportion of Polling Places with Potential Impediments in the Path to the Voting Area
Percentage of polling places
0 1 or more
Number of potential impediments
0 2000 j 2008
Source: GAO analysis of polling place data collected on Nov. 7, 2000 and Nov. 4, 2008.
The difference between the 2000 and 2008 estimates are statistically significant. For 0 impediments,
the 95-percent confidence interval for 2000 data is 11.3 to 21.6 and for 2008 data is 21.9 to 32.7. For
1 or more impediments, the 95-percent confidence interval for 2000 data is 78.4 to 88.7 and for 2008
data is 67.3 to 78.1.
.United States Government Accountability Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Voters With Disabilities: More Polling Places Had No Potential Impediments Than in 2000, but Challenges Remain, report, June 10, 2009; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc298114/m1/2/: accessed October 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.