An Elon News Network investigation found that more than half of the polling places in Alamance County could be in violation of federal law come Election Day.
The investigation discovered that 20 of Alamance County’s 37 Election Day voting sites have potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In some cases potential violations are relatively minor, like the need for temporary signage or parking pads, which help level out uneven surfaces. Kathy Holland, director of the Alamance County Board of Elections, told ENN that there are plans in place to make locations more accessible in time for Election Day.
The ADA allows for voting sites to be equipped with temporary accessibility.
In a statement, Holland said, “In 2003 the Alamance County Board of Elections began performing ADA surveys of each polling site. This was done in collaboration with the N.C. [North Carolina] State Board of Election’s efforts to make polling places in North Carolina ADA-accessible. All new sites must be surveyed before the site can be used on Election Day or as an early voting site. We use temporary signage, varying routes for accessible access, curbside assistants and greeter assistants to inform voters of their options and to offer accessible access to the polling places.”
But there are bigger issues at some voting sites.
According to the ADA, van-accessible parking spots must be at least 96 inches wide, but at the Eli Whitney Recreation Center, one of the spots is a full foot short at 84 inches. In addition, the handicap spots have markings so faded they’re barely visible.
Additionally, a community center in Ossipee, North Carolina, has a parking lot, but there are no marked handicap spots and it is made of gravel, which could make it difficult for those in wheelchairs to cast their vote.
This isn’t the only polling place with gravel or grass lots. Five other locations, including a church in Gibsonville and a church in Snow Camp, also have grass or gravel parking.
According to ADA guidelines by the United States Access Board, grass and gravel do not meet slip resistance or smoothness requirements for accessible parking.
Some accessibility problems stretch beyond just parking. At the Alamance Civitan Club house in Burlington, wheelchair-bound individuals may have a hard time navigating the gravel lot, but after a short, steep ramp up to the door, they’ll find a step they need to get up.
Around the side of the building there are two doors on more level ground, but there is still a discernible gap between the entrance and the parking lot.
Holly Stiles, an attorney for Disability Rights North Carolina, says that accessibility issues are a problem that individuals shouldn’t have to deal with.
“There should not be a fear when you got to the polls that the place is inaccessible,” Stiles said. “The right to vote is a fundamental right, so if you are discouraged or if you are facing barriers getting to the polling place, not only is that a violation of your rights as a person with a disability, but that is an infringement on one of your most fundamental rights.”