One of the fundamental and most important privileges that we are given under the Constitution of the United States is our right to vote. Given the contentious, dramatic, and somewhat nauseating campaigning that we have seen this fall, as well as the strong opinions most Americans hold for our two major party candidates, it is likely that we will see a record turnout at the voting booths next week.
But what if you have a disability that precludes you from exercising this important right? Luckily the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees that, as a resident of North Carolina, accommodations will be made if you are unable to enter your assigned polling place to cast your ballot.
The first option for disabled voters is at the curbside. If a disabled person has the ability to travel to the voting place, but because of age, physical disability, or physical barriers encountered (lack of ramps, etc.), they are unable to enter the voting place in person, the law states that they must be allowed to vote either in the vehicle transporting them or in the immediate proximity of the voting place.
If a registered voter is simply needs assistance getting to and from the voting booth and preparing ballots, the voter is allowed to have help from a near relative of his or her choice.
This provision applies to voters who are physically unable to enter the voting location, voters who are unable to mark ballots without assistance, voters who cannot mark ballots due to illiteracy, or voters who are visually impaired.
Finally, voters may request a satellite polling location. This option is designed for voters who do not wish to access curbside voting or whose assigned polling place is not sufficiently equipped to allow comfortable or adequate entrance to the building.
A request for a satellite location must be made in writing to the State Board of Elections who will then either approve or deny the request. If approved, the county board of elections will establish a plan for disabled voters to vote at designated sites within the precinct other than the regular voting place for that precinct.
We always hear the phrase, “Every vote counts”. Well, it’s true. And your vote is just as important as your neighbor’s or your friend’s. It doesn’t matter whether your vote comes at the curb, if it is submitted by a relative, or if it comes from a satellite location. It matters because you’re an American. It matters because it’s your right.