2019 NYS Poll Site Surveys

♬ Upbeat music fades in ♬ K: This is Katrin with Disability Rights
New York. Welcome to our podcast Empire State of Rights: Closed Captioned. We are
here to bring you information on the most relevant topics regarding
disability rights and advocacy today. We have Donna-Jean Steele and Zach Borodkin,
staff advocates here at DRNY. They’re here to discuss their experience
poll site surveying during New York State’s 2019 general elections. Donna-Jean, Zach, thank you for joining us today. ZB: Thank you for having us. DJS: Thanks you guys. K: So here at DRNY,
every election we have in New York State, we go out and do poll site surveying. We
visit the poll sites and we check to make sure that they are accessible. Donna-Jean, will you start by telling us what area you surveyed and what accessibility
issues you found? DJS: Sure, no problem. So I was able to survey 13 different counties
throughout New York State. I started in Onondaga County in Syracuse. I then
made my way through the Adirondack Mountains up to Clinton County up in
Plattsburgh. And then I traveled the north country, so I made my way through
Franklin County and then back down to Oswego. That week I was able to survey a
lot more counties than we normally would have been just on Election Day. K: And so can you talk to us? This is the first year that New York State has had early
election. How did that impact poll site surveying for you? DJS: It greatly impacted
our ability to survey more counties. Counties that we’ve never been to. Normally, we survey counties that are within maybe an hour to drive of our
offices which are in Rochester New York, Albany New York, and Brooklyn. So it kind
of limits us geographically where we’re able to survey. So having that extra nine
days or at least the workweek, which is five days, we’re able to survey ten times
more locations and I think Zach can speak to that as well.
The main accessibility issue that I saw kind of relates to early voting. Early voting
is great and I’m thankful that New York State has passed that law and we’re able to
all get out and vote. The issue that we have is that the
ballot marking devices (BMDs) are— were not arranged in an accessible
way. At least at the poll sites that I saw. The was due to a lack of space. So normally on
election day, each poll site has a ballot marking device at the location that
anybody can use. And that ballot marking device has that ballot for that specific
location– that village, that town, or whatever election is running at that
moment. Because early voting, there may be as few as one early voting location
throughout a whole county, so that means those ballot marking devices have to
have far more ballots stored within them. So that’s where the locations are
running into a storage problem– storage of data within the BMDs. And that meant
that they had to maybe have three or up to five ballot marking devices in their
gym or in their office space where their early locations with that. So it just
made a way that it was not accessible because all the ballot marking devices
were push up against the wall. It was just a space issue that we’d never run
into before as we’ve never done early voting. So I think that was the main
issue that I came across. K: So Donna-Jean, I just want to follow up with this, the issue of valid storage. Was that in any way an anticipated accessibility issue
before you went in? And is there a way that they can plan for that in the
future? DJS: I talked with the poll site workers at a few different locations and
I’m not sure anybody could have anticipated it just because normally on
Election Day there’s however many more ballot marking devices compared to maybe
one location at early voting. So I think for the future, it would have to be
possibly an update and storage or a different ballot marking device that
might have more storage capability. Something along those lines that we
could limit how many ballot marking devices need to be in one certain
location. That way there isn’t such a clog up in space, so hopefully we will be
able to tackle that next election. K: That’s really good
information. And so, Zach, we had another first here in some counties in New York
State. The new ICE Dominion ballot marking device was used in the counties
that you were surveying. Can you talk to us about what the overall response was
with those BMDs? ZB: So just to give everyone a little bit of
background on why Disability Rights New York opposes the ICE Dominion model
of ballot marking device. For a couple of reasons, the first one is that the device
cannot simultaneously serve as a BMD that provides privacy and independence, and also it can easily be confused with a ballot scanner as well. The second
reason is that the particular model does not guarantee a private voting
experience for a voter who needs it due to accessibility issues. And we also
think that poll inspectors are actually going to discourage others from using
the ICE device as a BMD. So those are just a couple of reasons why we oppose
the BMD. But the general, the general reaction was that voters had no
complaints. The BMD’s were functioning normally. So for me it wasn’t
a lack of access, but it was a lack of privacy to the person using it. That was
that was probably the violation I encountered the most when I
surveyed West Chester County. K: And so Zach ,were you able to speak to any of the
voters who were trying to use the new ICE Dominion BMDs?
And did they have any response to whether or not they felt that the vote
was in fact private or accessible? ZB: So, I did. Of course I waited until after they casted their ballot and I got them as they were leaving. I did manage to ask
a couple of them and they said that the BMD was running smoothly. They
encountered no problems. It was kind of a get-in, mark your
ballot, and get-out smooth process. But they did say that they felt that the
voting area was a little crowded and that that partially interfered with
their experience because anybody could walk in and see over the shoulder of the
voter. K: Okay. And Donna-Jean and as we talk about poll site accessibility
issues, obviously this is not a new thing. We’re doing the surveying because it’s
happening in every election. Why do you think accessibility issues continue to
happen at poll sites? DJS: I think accessibility issues continue to
happen mainly because of lack of knowledge and proper training. The poll
site workers are not always very well equipped to provide the access that’s
required by the law. I think they really honestly do the best they can with what
the county has given and provided them, but they don’t always know what they’re
supposed to be doing. I also think that if New York State had a standard
training for all the poll workers, it would eliminate a lot of these
violations that we see that are very fixable. New York State allows each
county to do with their training as they want. There is no standard throughout the
state and I think if there was a standardization of the training for poll
workers, it would help. K: And Zach, how do you think that these issues can be resolved?
and who can make these changes happen? ZB: So– and I’ve always maintained this because I have experience as a poll worker. Hire more poll workers with disabilities. I’m not saying that
somebody without a disability doesn’t see things differently than a person
with a disability. But if you hire poll workers with disabilities, they can add a
new perspective since they themselves experience the challenges of voting
firsthand. They can add to that perspective and say this was my
experience, this is how I believe it should be improved. So one way to do that
is to incentivize people with disabilities to work as poll workers
during an elections. K: Alright. And Donna-Jean, can you tell us how is DRNY
working to ensure every voter with a disability is able to cast their ballot? DJS: DRNY is serving as many counties as we possibly
can that way we’re able to ensure that anybody with a disability is able to
vote in New York State. Zach, myself, and the PAVA team, we try to
provide as much education as we can. Lectures about voters to know their
rights and outreach events throughout the entire year, not only during the
election season. This is our full-time job and our full-time passion We partner
with as many different organizations as we can to really help the cause and get
the word out. And quite honestly, we’re not going to stop until every voter is
able to cast their vote independently. K: Alright. Zach, now if someone would like to participate in poll side surveying in the future,
what do they need to do? What steps do they need to take? ZB: What DRNY has
done is we have created a presentation on how to survey poll sites. So the first
thing that I would– that I would say is to contact Disability Rights New York,
specifically contact the PAVA team. And what they can do is they can direct you
to this presentation and they can give you a sense of what your role is as a
surveyor and what your general mission is. What are the things you need to
look for, what are the things you need to bring, and basically they could take you
through everything that you need to do to be successful. K: And Zach, can you just
give us some examples of what they will need to look for while they are poll
site surveying? ZB: So when surveying, we look for four different aspects. We look at
the parking lot if parking is provided, we look at the path of travel to the
polling place and to the accessible entrance if there is one provided, we
look at the path of travel to the voting area, we look at the voting area, and we
look at the ballot marking device to make sure that it’s
functioning. So I would say you take those areas in mind and this can help
guide how you survey different polling places because not all
polling places are created equal. And there are different accessibility issues
everywhere you go. But keeping those aspects of it in mind, it should help. It
should help guide you through your time surveying. Make sure to bring a paper
survey. If you can, make sure to bring a tape measure. And always, always try to take
pictures. K: That’s great information, Zach. We really appreciate it.
Now before we sign off, is there anything else that you’d like to say regarding
this subject? Donna-Jean, do you want to start? DJS: I would say that just remembered
that it’s everyone’s right to cast their vote and to cast it independently.
Whether you’re a person with disabilities or not, you have that right.
And if you ever have any issues with voting, please contact us. We’re here to
help. ZB: So, you know, just to reiterate what Donna-Jean said, this is your vote. You
are the one who can make the difference. And unfortunately accessibility though
it should be a priority, is not always going to be the focus when it comes to
voting. So as a voter, you have to make sure that your voice is heard, and that
your vote is private and independent, and that you’re able to get to your polling
place to cast your ballot. And if you have any issues, you can always contact
Disability Rights New York. K: Donna-Jean and Zach, thank you so much for your time
today. This is great information and we will be listing the links of any of the
sites that you gave us during the podcast. It’s been wonderful speaking
with you. Thank you again. DJS: Thank you.
ZB: Thank you. K: Empire State of Rights: Closed Captioned
has been brought to you by Disability Rights New York; your source for
disability rights and advocacy. If you enjoyed our program, make sure to
subscribe, like, and share this post. If there is a subject you would like us to discuss please email [email protected] or comment below. Tune in next Wednesday where we’ll bring you more information on disability rights in the
state of New York . The closed captioned version of this podcast is available on our YouTube channel. To listen to more Empire State of Rights: Closed Captioned, follow us on Apple podcasts and Spotify. ♬ Upbeat music fades out ♬

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *