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
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