Richland County voters who are blind or disabled will find it easier to cast ballots in future elections.
About one-third of the polling places used last year were found to not meet federal accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Office of Civil Rights in the chief federal prosecutor’s office determined in a spot check last June.
On Tuesday, that office announced a settlement agreement with Richland County Elections & Voter Registration office which will bring the 49 polling places that failed the study into line with the standards, said Rob Sneed, the state’s coordinator for its Office of Civil Rights.
“They’re making progress,” Sneed said of the county elections office.
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The agreement also calls for elections officials to bring check the 96 remaining polling places that were not spot checked and bring any that fail into compliance by next June’s primaries, Sneed said.
Of the 54 polling places examined last year, five were found to be sufficiently accessible to disabled voters, he said. Of the remainder, 81 were fixed with temporary, work-around steps such as re-routing parking or creating temporary parking areas.
The rest of those spot-check, 18 polling places, are in need for changes that would be permanent such as widening doorways, building acceptable ramps or adding guardrails, the federal coordinator said.
“The onus is on the electoral commission to find acceptable places,” Sneed said, adding that might mean changing polling places, many of which are on private property such as churches.