The Rights of Voters with Disabilities
United States Constitution guarantees every U.S. citizen age 18 or older the
right to vote. Our state constitution further defines the right to vote by also
requiring voters to be residents of Michigan and registered to vote in their
city or township of residence. They must also fulfill Michigan's voter
identification requirement. The requirement can be met in two ways: 1) by
bringing acceptable ID, such as a Michigan driver's license, personal ID card or
other current ID document or 2) by signing an affidavit stating you are not in
possession of ID.
Other than city or township residency, identification and age requirements,
state and federal laws do not place any other restrictions on the right to vote.
Voting allows us to shape public policy and determine who leads our communities,
state and nation. Our right to vote is basic to our system of democracy, and
depends on all people having full and equal access to the ballot.
Voting at the polls can present a unique set of challenges to people with
disabilities. Federal and state laws require Michigan's cities, townships and
villages to provide a reasonable number of accessible registration facilities.
It is the intent of the law to ensure that voters with disabilities are fully
able to exercise their voting rights at the polls. Any action or physical
barrier that prevents voters with disabilities from casting a ballot is
To fulfill the intent of the laws, election officials must consider access
from outside and inside the polling place. Problems with the physical
surroundings such as narrow doorways, stairs, broken pavement and other
obstacles outside can prevent voters with disabilities from entering a polling
place. Inside a polling place, issues like inadequate lighting and seating, and
voting stations that cannot accommodate a person who is seated can further
hamper someone's right to vote.
To ensure that proper accessibility is maintained, federal and state laws
require polling places to remove or make accommodations for any barriers that
prevent voters with disabilities from voting. Care should be taken to ensure
that the polling place is accessible - doors should not be blocked, alternatives
to stairs such as ramps or elevators should be available, and lighting and
seating should be adequate.
To help communities remove these barriers and improve access to polling
places, the Michigan Secretary of State's office has awarded over $1 million in
Help America Vote Act (HAVA) grants to municipalities statewide. Most of the
work involved improvements to parking spaces, passenger drop-off areas, interior
and exterior paths of travel, building entrances and voting areas.
Inside the polling location, at least one voting station should be adapted to
allow a person to vote while seated. In addition, all voters, including voters
with disabilities, have access to the AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal in all
polling places. The AutoMARK operates like an electronic ink pen. It simply
marks the ballot with the voter's choices but does not tally the votes. Once the
ballot is marked, it is counted in exactly the same fashion as all other
The AutoMARK features a touch screen, a keypad marked with Braille, and the
opportunity for voters to use their personal sip-puff device, a stylus or a
footpad to mark their ballots. The AutoMARK is wheelchair-accessible and is
equipped with headphones so that voters may hear the ballot read aloud to them
if they wish.
Voters have the opportunity to learn more about this equipment by visiting
Equipment website, or by visiting the Michigan
Voter Information Center website.
Voters with disabilities who require assistance in casting a ballot may
receive assistance from another person, provided that the person assisting the
voter is not the voter's employer, agent of that employer or an officer or agent
of a union to which the voter belongs.
If you or someone you know requires special access to the polls, it's
important to call the clerk's office ahead of time to make sure your voting site
is free of obstructions. If your precinct is not accessible, you will be
directed to an alternative site that is accessible. For more information,
contact your local clerk. Hearing impaired residents with questions may contact
the Department of State's Bureau of Elections by TTY at (517) 322-1477.