Voting with a disability in N.Y.: Still a separate-but-equal experience – New York Daily News


The road to becoming the 55th governor of New York and the first African-American, who is also blind, to hold this office was paved with significant challenges, including severe disability and racial discrimination. Sadly, some of those challenges continue — including exercising my constitutional right to vote.
When I visit a polling site to cast my ballot, I am reminded of persistent voting barriers for individuals like me who happen to have a disability.
As sophisticated as New York City purports to be, like the rest of the state, it is behind the times. The fact is voters in New York with a disability are being segregated from other voters, relying on aging technology, and often ushered into a corner by an election worker.
A woman in a wheelchair casts her vote in a school gym in New York. (Richard Drew/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
This relegation to a second-class voting process contrasts with many jurisdictions across our nation, where all voters — regardless of physical capability — are accessing the same method for voting, as should be the case. When we even the playing field, we create an equal, private experience for all. This matters to me, and it should matter to all New Yorkers. Every voter deserves the chance to go to the voting booth, independently if they choose, and cast their ballot securely and in secret.
One may ask, why does this matter? It matters because we ought to abandon this system that fosters disparate experiences, especially when it comes to the most fundamental right of voting. It matters because when we create distinctive methods of voting for certain groups of people, the right to a private ballot is at risk. It matters because being a segregated minority — even if that minority is low vision, or quadriplegia — should be a thing of the past. Imagine going to a polling place where you are the only voter without the use of your hands to write. You’ll bypass the line, and you’ll be escorted to an area for people with a disability. You’ll likely be the only voter there at the time.
Now imagine if everyone was using the same equipment to vote, regardless of physical capability. This equipment exists. Large, modern jurisdictions in America are providing voting equipment — the same equipment — that accommodates voters of all capabilities. Election administrators and volunteers train on one piece of equipment and learn how to accommodate everyone in a like manner. Oh, and this same equipment can accommodate multiple languages at the push of a button, so if English isn’t a voter’s preferred language, they can have equitable access as well.
I’ve examined and tested this universal equipment first-hand. I liked it. I trust it. The state of New York has an opportunity to certify voting equipment that will remove barriers voters face at the polls. Seeds of doubt planted by election deniers, playing political or self-serving games, should not take precedence over proven secure, unrestricted access to a groundbreaking universal voting machine.
Modern voting technology allows all to access the polling booth with privacy and with dignity, enabling their voice to be heard. Let’s get with it, New York. We are long overdue in moving past our current reality of “separate but equal” when it comes to voting.
Paterson was the 55th governor of New York.
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News

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