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Greenville County Polling Place Challenged to Meet ADA Requirements During Primaries
June 28, 2018
Source: Greenville News (SC)
At least one polling place in Greenville County [South Carolina] was forced to come up with a temporary solution to comply with federal requirements for voting accessibility during Tuesday’s primary runoffs.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a polling place must hold voting on the same level as its building’s entrance. If that’s not possible, there should be an elevator that can take people to the correct level. Temporary fixes, like portable ramps, door stops and alternative entrances are also allowed under ADA.
Greenville County Elections Director Conway Belangia said he’s aware of concerns that Augusta Road Baptist Church didn’t meet those standards, and he said that with 151 polling places throughout the county, there could be more.
"We try to provide as much as we can for the handicapped," he said.
The church has put up signs directing people to an alternative entrance and to the polling location, the church’s office administrator, Brenda Arrowood, said. "We’ve never had a problem," she said.
When a polling place is in a private venue, such as a church, Belangia said election workers use whatever space is made available to them. Sometimes during low-turnout primary elections, voting is held in a smaller area that may not be considered accessible under ADA standards, he said.
The county offers curbside voting so people can vote from their vehicles, but Belangia said that’s not considered an answer or substitute for ADA compliance. The state of South Carolina also has a law that allows disabled people to request a different polling place at least 30 days before an election.
"I’ve never, in my experience, seen that option used," Belangia said.
Greenville resident John Arrington said it occurred to him that stairs at his polling place at Augusta Road Baptist Church would be impossible for a wheelchair user to navigate.
"Voting is the cornerstone of American democracy, but it’s not accessible," Arrington said.
He’s critical of the county’s response to offer curbside voting and considers lack of accessibility a huge issue.
"Restaurants aren’t even allowed to do what a polling place is doing," he said. "When you try to bring it up to the county, their first reaction is curbside voting."
Belangia said places such as churches and schools that step in as polling places sometimes run out of space during primary elections. Arrowood said Tuesday’s primary fell during the church’s summer camp, which hosts about 200 children.
"This is a situation they’re not used to dealing with, and churches will put us in different areas they’re not using for primary elections, which usually see lower turnouts," Belangia said.
More information on ADA requirements:
ADA Checklist for Polling Places
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