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Presidential Panel Calls For Improved Voting Accessibility

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Significantly enhanced efforts to accommodate people with disabilities are among several recommendations from a presidential panel tasked with improving the nation’s voting procedures.

In a report this week, a bipartisan commission tapped by President Barack Obama outlined a series of recommendations to streamline the voter experience after the 2012 election was plagued by long lines and other difficulties.

The panel is urging an expansion of online voter registration and greater availability of early voting in addition to addressing what they dubbed an “impending crisis in voting technology” and other issues.

Specifically, however, the commission is urging election officials nationwide to pay greater attention to people with disabilities and other groups that are often disproportionately impacted by problems at the polls.

Many enhancements — like widespread use of online voter registration — would be particularly advantageous to those with disabilities, the commission said.

Checklists for each polling place should be used during every election cycle to ensure full accessibility and the panel is recommending that routine audits be conducted to verify compliance. Poll workers also need to be fully trained on how to interact with voters who have special needs and how to assist them with equipment.

“The population of voters with disabilities is large and growing,” the report indicates. “Issues of voting and accessibility, therefore, are not one for a discrete subset of the population. Rather, they are issues that many, if not most, voters may experience at some point in their lives.”

The commission is also recommending that officials with the roughly 8,000 jurisdictions nationwide that administer elections convene local advisory groups to best understand the needs of voters with disabilities.

All of the problems identified by the panel’s six-month review are “both identifiable and solvable,” the 10-member commission concluded.

Obama called the recommendations “common sense” and urged officials at the state, local and federal level to implement them.

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