The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) created a requirement that every polling place have accessible voting equipment available for each election. The State of Wisconsin used funds provided through HAVA to assist municipalities with purchasing accessible voting equipment. By 2006, every municipality in the state met this requirement and six accessible voting systems are currently in use statewide.
Assistance with Voting and Registering
Every polling place is also required to have an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant booth or table available for voters with disabilities who wish to cast a paper ballot. If a voter requires assistance marking their ballot on Election Day, they may take any person of their choosing, except their employer or a representative of their labor union, with them into the voting booth. A voter may require an assistor if they have problems reading or writing, have difficulty with the English language, or have a disability which prevents them from being able to mark the ballot. After the ballot has been marked, the assistor must then sign in the space provided on the back of the ballot. The name and address of the individual providing assistance will also be recorded on the voter list by the election inspectors. Assistors do not need to be qualified electors, and may include children who are minors or otherwise ineligible electors. An election inspector may also provide assistance to voters who request it. Providing guidance about how to properly mark a ballot is not “assistance”.
Voters can also request assistance with the accessible voting equipment. Please note that any person providing assistance with a direct-recording electronic accessible voting machine (Edge, iVotronic, or Accuvote) should position themselves behind the machine so that they cannot view the voter’s ballot choices. They are allowed to explain how the equipment works but cannot assist you with making your ballot choices.
Voters can also have an assistant when completing a voter registration application or absentee application. After completing the application, the assistor must then sign the form in the appropriate box and provide any additional required information. Explaining how to complete the form is not “assistance”. That voter would then be exempt from the poll book signing requirement.
Signing the Poll List
Since 2011, voters in Wisconsin are required to sign the poll list before receiving a ballot. Exemptions to this requirement are available for any voter who, for reason of physical disability, cannot sign the poll list. The election inspectors will write, “exempt by order of inspectors” in the signature line and issue the voter a ballot.
Common Courtesy When Interacting with Voters
Election inspectors should also take care to remain courteous when working with a voter with a disability or an elderly voter. These basic tips should also be followed so that all voters feel welcome at the polling place and have equal opportunity to cast a ballot on Election Day:
- Be considerate of the extra time that it might take for a person with a disability or an elderly voter to complete a ballot, use the accessible voting equipment or fill out a voter registration form.
- Be patient and attentive with a person who has difficulty speaking.
- Communicate directly with the voter, rather than just to an assistor who may be accompanying the voter.
- Before pushing someone in a wheelchair, ask for permission from the individual.