Voting is a fundamental right for all citizens, and it is essential that everyone has the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. In Taylor, Texas, there are special accommodations for voters with disabilities to ensure that they can cast their ballots without any difficulty. Laura Halvorson was ready to vote when she arrived at the Igo Library in San Antonio. She had spent a month preparing for this moment, and it was the first time in years that she had been in a public place other than a doctor's office.
Before heading to the polls, it is important to understand your rights as a voter and the rules that are in place at polling stations. In every federal election (and most non-federal elections), each voting center will offer at least one type of accessible voting equipment. This equipment is designed to help voters mark their ballot privately and independently. Additionally, if poll workers assist a voter in voting, election observers can observe that process, in accordance with the state election code. Alternatively, if a voter will turn 65 or older on Election Day, has a disability, or will be out of the county during early voting hours and on Election Day, they can request a vote by mail. A coalition of voting rights groups in Texas manages voter protection hotlines, also connected to lawyers, in multiple languages and for people with disabilities. In Texas, a voter with a disability is one who has an “illness” or a “physical condition” that prevents them from voting in person without the possibility of “needing” personal assistance or harming the voter's health.
If the voter chooses to have the assistance of polling station officials, election observers and election inspectors can observe the voting process, but if the voter requests the assistance of a person of their choice, no one else will be able to see them vote. This does not require disclosure, except when a person “simultaneously drives seven or more voters from the sidewalk to a polling place”, in which case, the person must sign a form and indicate whether they are also serving as a voting assistant for voters. The voter may also submit a ballot request by mail in person to the clerk's office for early voting if the request is submitted no later than the close of regular activities in the secretary's office before the eleventh day before election day. Additionally, Texas law states that voters have the right to vote during work hours without being penalized or losing their pay, but this may not apply if a worker has two hours before or after work to vote. Voters who vote during the early voting period can vote at any early voting site in the political subdivision holding the election. At the Texas Secretary of State's office, you can find a list of counties where voters can vote at any polling place in the county on election day. Greg Abbott, a Texas Republican, has made it harder for voters to vote by mail and has reduced their options to vote in person, according to groups that advocate for people with disabilities and the right to vote.
Several Texas Republicans who supported the new electoral law did not respond to requests for comment on its effects on people with disabilities, although a spokeswoman for Governor Abbott said in a statement that it “protects the rights of disabled Texans to request reasonable accommodations or modifications”.We provide an explanation of the voting process with election-specific guides to help Texans know what's on the ballot and how to vote. It is essential that everyone has access to accurate information about their rights as voters so that they can make informed decisions when casting their ballots.