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Archive for Saturday, July 31, 2004

Poll checks in Kansas focus on accessibility

July 31, 2004

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— Advocates for the disabled will be checking polling places across the state during Tuesday's primaries to make sure that handicapped people have easy access to voting.

"We've already gotten some reports that are pretty concerning," said Rocky Nichols, executive director of Kansas Advocacy & Protective Services.

Nichols said a new state law and the federal Help America Vote Act have increased emphasis on the requirement that voting places be accessible to people who are handicapped.

He said he had heard that in some places in western Kansas polling places remained problematic for people with disabilities.

"It's still amazing that the Americans with Disabilities Act passed 14 years ago, and we still have people who don't get accessibility," he said.

Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh said the state had recently spent about $170,000 upgrading polling places to help people with disabilities gain access.

The upgrades included posting signs for handicapped parking, adding ramps and even moving some polling sites, he said.

"Our charge to the counties has been to ensure that we have 100 percent accessible polling places in every polling place in the state of Kansas, and that is what we expect in every county," he said.

In Douglas County, officials surveyed all 67 polling places and at some added signs for handicapped parking and at one added a threshold ramp.

"They were fairly minor things," said Marni Penrod, deputy clerk of elections. "We did surveys of all the precincts. This will be a tuneup for the general election, and hopefully we'll have all our ducks in a row," she said.

The general election is Nov. 2.




Bob Mikesic, advocacy and ADA coordinator for Independence Inc., said Douglas County polling places were in good shape.

"There wasn't anything preventing any person from getting into a voting site," he said.

Nichols urged Kansans who want to help survey polling places during Tuesday's election to get a questionnaire off his agency's Web site at www.ksadv.org. The questionnaire can be used to gauge basic accessibility requirements at polling places, he said.

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