101st Assembly District
Kevin Cahill

Room 557 LOB, Albany, NY 12248 • (518) 455-4436
Governor Clinton Building, One Albany Ave., Suite G-4
Kingston, NY 12401 • (845) 338-9610

For Immediate Release
Date: March 1, 2004
Contact: Kathy Keyser
(845) 338-9610

Assemblymember Cahill's Able Column
Election Reform a Necessity for New York's Disabilities Community
March 2004

Participating in the voting process is a basic right that all citizens should be able to access, regardless of their limitations. As many of you are aware, New York State is in the very beginning stages of overhauling our election system, thanks, in great part, to the 2000 Presidential Election debacle. New York's system of voting is archaic at best, and entirely dysfunctional at its worst. Unfortunately for citizens with disabilities, voting independently is simply not a current reality. Many people with disabilities in New York State have to rely on assistance from a friend, family member or polling place worker to cast their votes on Election Day because of antiquated machines and inaccessible polling places. These are among the things we in the Assembly intend to address this year.

As Chair of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, it is one of my top priorities to ensure that every single New Yorker is able to cast private, independent ballots in accessible polling places. Among other initiatives, the Task Force is standing firm in its commitment to the following pieces of legislation that will significantly improve accessibility to the voting process for people with disabilities.

  • A.5473 (Cahill) - Requires polling places to be accessible to physically disabled voters and establishes basic accessibility guidelines to ensure consistency and encourage substantial compliance at polling sites.
  • A.8847 (Wright) - Enacts the "voting systems standards act of 2003" and repeals certain provisions of the election law relating to voting machines. Specifically, this bill establishes new standards for voting machines and ensures that at least one voting machine that includes an audio prompt voting feature, hand held voting device and a sip-and-puff mechanism will be available in each polling place.

    In addition, the Task Force is inviting comment and discussion regarding New York's unique "full face ballot" provisions. Compliance with that requirement has significantly reduced the choices of available voting technology. Assemblymember David Koon is sponsoring a measure (A.9433) which would eliminate that requirement.

    The Task Force supports initiatives that will involve people with disabilities in the entire election process, not just voting. People with disabilities are natural born leaders and have a place in the center of politics. I am always mindful of one New Yorker, Franklin Roosevelt, who served in the Assembly, the Governor's office and ultimately the Presidency of the United States. Participating in our country's election process is not only a right, but it is an activity that can be very rewarding. People with disabilities should be able to fill the role of polling place officials, campaign workers and candidates, and of course, everyone should be given the opportunity to vote, in private, conveniently and independently.

    It is my hope that the Senate will now take up these critical measures to protect the rights and needs of New Yorkers with disabilities to cast a vote independently. I strongly urge you to contact your Senate representative to lend your voice to those who have already worked so hard to bring this much needed change to fruition. Together, we can make a difference.

    Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill, Chair
    New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities
    Agency Building 4, 13th Floor, Albany, NY 12248