OPA: Your Rights as a Voter with a Disability Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities OPA: Your Rights as a Voter with a Disability

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Your Rights as a Voter with a Disability

As a member of a democratic society and as a person with a disability, you have both the right and the responsibility to vote.

No vote is ever wasted.

Every vote counts!

Disability voting rights laws ensure that people with disabilities have access to voter education, registration and the polling place, as well as use of the voting machine. The purpose of all these requirements is to create EQUAL OPPORTUNITY in every aspect of the voting process.

This will introduce you to both basic voting information and some of the most significant laws that protect the voting rights of people with disabilities. Call us if you have any questions or if you think your rights as a voter with a disability have been violated.

Avocacy Tip 1
 Become a Poll Worker - One way to become an effective voting rights advocate is to become a poll worker.  Call the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities or your local Registrars of Voters Office for information.

The Connecticut Voter’s Bill of Rights

The Connecticut Voter’s Bill of Rights summarizes some of the basic voter rights laws enacted in the State of Connecticut. Most of it applies to people with and without disabilities. It is important that all voters become familiar with these rights.

The Connecticut Voter’s Bill of Rights assures that all voters have a right to:

•   Inspect a sample ballot before voting;

•   Receive instructions concerning how to operate voting equipment on sample voting equipment before voting;

•   Cast a ballot if you are in line when the polls are closing; {Balck and white picture of a hand placing a ballot into the voter boxes of yesteryear.}

•   Ask for and receive assistance in voting, including assistance in languages other than English where required by federal or state law;

•   Vote free from coercion or intimidation by election officials or any other person;

•   Cast a ballot using voting equipment that accurately counts all votes;

•   Vote by provisional ballot if you are registered to vote and your name is not on the voter list; *

•   Be informed of the process for restoring your right to vote if you were incarcerated for a conviction; and

•   Vote independently and in privacy at a polling place, regardless of physical disability.

* Applies only to elections when there are candidates for federal office on the ballot. (Connecticut General Statutes §9-236b)
 
Help America Vote Act

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA), passed in 2002, includes sections on disability access. This important federal law, which applies to the whole country, requires that states:

• Provide accessible voting machines;
• Educate Registrars of Voters and poll workers on the voting rights of people with disabilities;
• Provide accessible polling places;
• Conduct outreach to people with disabilities on their voting rights.

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Common Q&As for Voters with Disabilities

Voter Registration

What are the qualifications for registering to vote in Connecticut?

To register to vote in Connecticut, you must:

• Be a U.S. citizen;
• Be 18 years old on or by Election Day;
• Be a resident of a Connecticut town.
Convicted felons do not permanently lose their right to vote in Connecticut. If you are a convicted felon, your right to vote is restored when you are no longer incarcerated and not on parole. You also must have paid all fines in conjunction with the conviction. (Connecticut General Statutes §9-46a).

Where may I obtain a voter registration form?

Connecticut makes it easy to register to vote. By law, voter registration forms are required to be available at many public places. (Connecticut General Statutes §9-19h) You may also contact your local Registrars of Voters to obtain a registration form in person or by mail. The eligibility statement that is part of the registration process must be made available, upon request, in Braille, large print or audio to people with visual disabilities.

You may also acquire a registration form at any of the below locations. At some of these sites, you may also submit your completed form.

• Municipal Town Clerk Offices
• CT Department of Social Services (all offices)
• CT Department of Public Health
• CT Department of Motor Vehicles
• CT Department for Developmental Disabilities
• CT Department of Rehabilitation Services
• CT Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities
• Public Libraries
• Colleges and Universities
• All Armed Forces Recruitment Offices
• Many nonprofit community organizations
• On the website of the Secretary of the State (www.ct.gov/sots)

Advocacy Tip

Be aware of all due dates for reistering to vote or acquiring an absentee ballot.  Call you local Registrars or Voters Office or contact P&A.

May I register to vote online?

Yes. Online registration enables prospective voters to complete the entire registration process on the computer. The site is maintained by the Secretary of the State. The website address is:

https://voterregistration.ct.gov/OLVR

The site explains the process and the identification requirements. You will note that 2 buttons at the bottom read:

         • I do have a valid DMV ID 
                       and
         • I do not have a valid DMV ID.

If you click on the first button “I do have a valid DMV ID”, you will be led through the entire online registration process.

If you click on the second button “I do not have a valid DMV ID”, you will be led through the process of filling out a registration form, which you will then need to print out and deliver, by hand or standard mail, to your local Registrars’ Office. (Connecticut General Statutes §9-19K)


Voting


Is it possible to register to vote on Election Day?

Yes.  Election Day Registration (EDR) enables people to both register and vote on the day of a general election. The EDR site must be accessible to people with disabilities and assistance must be available for those who need help filling out the ballot.

Like at a standard polling place, the hours are 6:00 AM – 8:00 PM. Unlike at a regular polling place, though, voters will not be allowed to vote if they are in line at 8:00 PM. The site will close at that time whether or not there are people waiting. Also, unlike at a standard polling place, where the IVS phone system must be available for use, EDR sites are not presently required to provide the IVS, although a municipality may choose to do so.  If the IVS vote-by-phone is not available an EDR location, the only available voting method is the paper ballot.

Keep in mind that ID requirements for EDR are more stringent than those required of voters when they appear to vote at a standard polling place. Acceptable documents include, but are not limited to:

• Birth certificate;
• Driver’s license;
• Non-driver photo ID (issued by Department of Motor Vehicles);
• Social Security card.

If the ID presented does not include residential address, the applicant must present an additional document that provides proof of residence. Examples of such documents include, but are not limited to:

• Motor vehicle learner’s permit;
• Utility bill due no longer than 30 days after the election;
• Paycheck;
• Naturalization papers. (Connecticut General Statutes §9-19j)

Do I have to show an ID when I go to the polls?

Yes. The following is simplified information about ID requirements in Connecticut.

Voters who are voting for the first time in a primary or election with federal candidates on the ballot must present:

• A current and valid photo ID that shows name and address
                                       OR
• A current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document that shows name and address.

In the absence of acceptable ID, a voter may cast a provisional ballot. These ballots are only available when candidates for federal office are in a race.  Once the identity of the voter has been confirmed, the ballots are analyzed and counted.
 
All other voters must present:

• A Social Security card
• Any pre-printed form of identification that shows
o    Name and address, or
o    Name and signature, or
o    Name and photograph.

In the absence of acceptable ID, the voter may sign a statement testifying to his or her identity.

Are all polling places required to be accessible?

Yes.  Polling places are required to provide a barrier-free route through all areas relevant to casting a vote. This includes pathways, doorways and corridors.  Every polling place is also required to provide at least two accessible parking spaces if there is an existing parking lot.  In unusual cases, a polling place may be granted an accessibility waiver from the State of
Connecticut if an access problem cannot be solved before an election.  Such waivers are considered temporary and generally last through only one election cycle.  (Connecticut General Statutes §9-168d).

May I move to the front of the line on Election Day if my disability requires it?

Yes.  Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), moving to the front of the line when necessary would be a reasonable policy modification. If your disability prevents you from staying in line, let the election officials know and ask to be moved to the front of the line. 
If you choose to stay in line, however, the election officials cannot make you move to the front of the line just because you have a disability.

May I use the voting system of my choice on Election Day?

Yes.  You may vote on either one of the two machines used in Connecticut.  The optical scan machine requires the voter to choose candidates by filling in little circles on a paper ballot. The vote-by-phone machine, which is located at every polling place, is a telephone that works by audible cues.

How does the optical scan system work?

The optical scan system uses a paper ballot that is read by an optical scan machine.  You are given a paper ballot with the names of candidates listed by office.  You are also given a marker for filling in the circles next to the names of the candidates of your choice.  Once you complete the ballot, you carry it to the optical scan machine and place it in the scanner, where it is read and counted.

How do I use the vote-by-phone voting system?

The system works by a series of audio cues, requiring you to push different buttons on the key pad to make your choices.  The machine provides you with the opportunity to review and revise your selections. It also gives instructions on how to cast your ballot. After your ballot is cast, a paper ballot will be sent to the fax machine attached to the phone.  The voter takes the paper ballot and places it in a separate bin on the side of the optical scan machine. 

The phone system often works well for people with visual disabilities, people who prefer following audio cues, people with reading difficulties, and others. Headsets should be available. Anyone, with or without a disability, may vote on this machine – it’s up to you!

May I vote by phone from home?

No. The phone system is only available at your polling place.

Must the vote-by-phone machine be available for use during every election?

Yes. The vote-by-phone system must be available for use during every election. However, there is currently no requirement in Connecticut State Statute for the phone to be available during referendums.

Is there a way to practice the phone system before Election Day?

Yes. The phone voting system can be tried from your home phone. Call 866-979-3900. When asked the poll worker ID, enter 1234. When asked the ballot access ID, enter 101. The system will then guide you through the process. (Remember that the names on the practice ballot are not real candidates for office and are for testing purposes only!) If you have Internet access, go to www.ivsllc.com for more information about the system from the manufacturer.


May I receive help in casting my vote?

Yes.  If a voter requires assistance to vote by reason of disability or inability to write on or read the ballot, help may be provided by a person of the voter’s choice, except: 1) the voter’s employer; 2) an agent of the employer; 3) an officer or agent of the voter’s union; or 4) a candidate on the ballot, unless that candidate is a member of the voter’s immediate family. (Connecticut General Statutes §9-264)

Is curbside voting available in Connecticut?

Yes. Voters who are unable, for reason of disability or illness, to enter a polling place on the day of an election may arrange to vote from their car. It is advised that such arrangements be made before arrival with the Registrars of Voters so that personnel are available to come out when the voter arrives. Two designated polling officials will bring the ballot and, upon completion, return the ballot to the polling place and deposit it in the optical scanner. This service is available during elections and referenda.  (Connecticut General Statutes §9-261 [b])

How do I obtain an absentee ballot?

You may request an application for an absentee ballot from the municipal clerk in the town where you vote.

Does Connecticut have a permanent absentee ballot for voters with permanent disabilities?

Yes. Connecticut now offers a permanent absentee ballot for people with disabilities. After the initial application has been accepted, voters will be mailed annual renewal forms. These forms only ask for confirmation of the voter’s address. 

If the holder of a permanent absentee ballot does not reply, he or she will lose permanent absentee status, but will not be removed from the list of registered voters. 
An absentee ballot will not automatically be mailed to the voter.  He or she must request one or vote at the polling place on election day.

May I vote by absentee ballot if I am in some other kind of facility, like a nursing home or a hospital?

Yes.  If twenty or more registered voters are in such a facility, then the office of the Registrars of Voters of the town in which the facility is located must supervise the picking up of the absentee ballots and the delivery of them to the Clerk in the voters’ home districts, as well as supervise the completion of the ballots and their submission. (Connecticut General Statutes §9-159r)

May I vote if I have a guardian or a conservator?

Yes.  No one under guardianship or conservatorship may be denied the right to vote unless a probate court issues a specific order prohibiting this right. (Connecticut General Statutes §9-159s)

May I vote if I am living in a psychiatric institution?

Yes.  Any person hospitalized in a facility for people with psychiatric disabilities has the right to vote unless a probate court issues a specific order prohibiting this right. (Connecticut General Statutes §17a-541)

Can my right to vote be challenged at the polls?

Only under limited circumstances.  Poll workers may only challenge a person’s right to vote based on questions related to identity, valid disenfranchisement (legal loss of voting rights) or residency.  Poll workers may not question a person’s right to vote based on their perception of a voter’s lack of competence or ability.  (Connecticut General Statutes §9-232).

All publications are available in alternative format upon request.

If you need assistance or require additional information, please contact: OPA-Information@CT.GOV  

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Content Last Modified on 1/12/2016 3:43:23 PM