Iowa counties can receive funds to make polling places more accessible

Each Iowa county will receive $1,000 to improve polling place accessibility to ensure all Iowans with disabilities can vote in the November election, the Iowa secretary of state announced Friday. , Paul Pate.

Pate said the grants are intended to foster a partnership between local governments and advocacy programs to assess how voting sites can become more accessible. In addition to improving accessibility, counties can use the money for staff to undergo communication, etiquette and sensitivity training.

Grants are funded by the federal government Help America Vote. The legislation set new minimum requirements for states in election administration. County grant applications will be processed immediately and counties should receive the funds within seven to 10 days of signing, said Kevin Hall, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.

“I want all voters to have a positive experience,” Pate said in a press release. “Every polling place must be accessible, but we must go beyond simple compliance. Inclusion begins in the planning stages, and providing county auditors with the resources to work with local organizations to improve access will ensure that every Iowan can easily navigate their polling place on Election Day.

Federal laws such as the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensure that all public entities, such as polling places, provide equal opportunity for access regardless of disability.

About 300,000 Iowans have a disability, according to the secretary of state’s office. Hall said sometimes people with disabilities and advocacy groups can identify needed improvements that election officials might not see, and this grant is another step toward improving Vote for All.

“For veterans, not all disabilities are visible,” Hall said. “Some people may be struggling with, for example, PTSD, and so entering a polling station may present a different kind of challenge. It is for anyone with a disability. »

Hall said ensuring the accessibility of polling places was one of Pate’s goals after his election. Over the years, his office has worked with the Iowa Disability Council and Disabilities Rights Iowa to ensure people with disabilities can vote easily.

The deadline for the grant is August 31, and all projects must be completed before the November 2022 general election. help poll workers improve access.

“It’s important for listeners to consider what the disability community sees and feels,” Hall said. “We want to make sure everyone is comfortable going to a polling station to vote. That’s really what it’s all about, getting a different perspective from a disabled person’s perspective and helping them overcome any difficulties they might have in voting.

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