Hello, Sen. Brewer and members of the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee. I’m Heidi Uhing, and I’m the public policy director for Civic Nebraska. I’m here in support of LB770, which would require an audit of election-related sites throughout Nebraska for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Throughout our state, people cast their ballots in a variety of facilities that temporarily serve as polling places, such as libraries, schools, fire stations, and churches. The ADA requires that public entities ensure that people with disabilities can access and use these voting facilities. It can be difficult to find enough polling locations that are already ADA-compliant, so states have needed to make adjustments to ensure that all these locations are accessible for voting.
The Justice Department’s ADA Checklist for Polling Places offers guidance to election officials for determining whether a polling place already has the accessibility features needed by voters with disabilities or whether it can be made accessible using temporary solutions.
While Nebraska does offer absentee voting, which is used by many voters with disabilities, it cannot take the place of in-person voting for those who prefer to vote at the polls on Election Day. Any alternate method of voting must offer voters with disabilities an equally effective opportunity to cast their votes in person.
I understand that the Secretary of State has been working to help county election officials bring polling sites into compliance using some federal funds provided by the Help America Vote Act. Nearly $130,000 has been distributed to 13 counties for repairs and upgrades to polling locations, and another $100,000 on behalf of counties for accessibility improvements. These funds have provided some improvements like ramps, new door handles, and additional parking spaces.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 and decades later, all our polling sites are not yet compliant. A larger, ongoing, and more coordinated effort is needed in order to identify all the upgrades needed across the state and to fund that work so no voter faces barriers to the polls.