Voting Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Updated: January 2016

In the United States of America, an organization called DisabilityRights Texas created a video for members of the state of Texas to provide a detailed explanation of their voting rights, what laws they are protected by, instructions for the voting process in Texas, and contact information for a local organization to assist in resolving any election barriers or challenges that might arise.




Narrator: The right to vote. We're told it's our privilege and our duty as American citizens, our chance to use our voice about what we believe is best for ourselves and the people of our country, yet over the years only about half or less U.S. citizens eligible to vote did so in presidential elections. Though the reasons vary, we know some other people who have not voted include people with disabilities who face barriers when attempting to vote or register to vote. In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act to make the voting process more inclusive and accessible. That means that if you are a person with a disability, you have specific legal rights regarding voting.

First of all, you have the right to register to vote. So where can you register to vote? Under the law, state agencies that provide assistance to people with disabilities must offer you the opportunity to register to vote. Some of these agencies include the Department of State Health Services, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Department of Transportation, and many other state offices. If you have not been offered the opportunity to register to vote at government offices such as these, please call the Disability Rights Texas voting rights hotline at 1-888-796-VOTE (8683). Certain individuals may not be eligible to vote. This applies to many people who are under full guardianships. Some people who are under limited guardianship may have the right to vote unless a judge specifically orders that they cannot vote.

Another one of your voting rights as a person with a disability requires that polling places where you cast your vote must be accessible, meaning you can enter and exit the building without obstacles. Requirements include: The voting area is located on the first floor or is accessible by elevator entrance and exit; doors and elevator doors meet certain width requirements; the parking area has curb cuts and a ramp to the entrance; stairs and ramps have handrails; ramps are non-slip; [and] there are no barriers in the path of a voter with a disability.

You also have the right to cast a ballot privately and independently. You do not have to provide proof of disability to poll workers, and it is illegal for anyone to ask you what your disability is. Every polling place in Texas, including early voting sites, must have at least one voting machine with accessibility features which allows voters with disabilities to mark on their ballots. Private voting machines come with assistive features for people with visual or physical impairments. Also, if you cannot read or write, or if you have a disability that prevents you from reading or marking the ballot, you have the right to ask someone for help.

You can ask a friend to help you, or you can ask the election officials to help you with marking the entire ballot, depending on your needs. You can choose anyone you want to help, except your employer, an agent of your employer, or an officer or an agent of your union. The person helping you must take an oath that he or she will not try to influence your vote and will mark your ballots as you tell them to. The person may not tell anyone how you voted.

If you do not understand the language being spoken in the polling place, or you do not understand the language that the ballot is written in, you have the right to an interpreter. You can select any registered voter from your county to be your interpreter. If you cannot read the language on the ballot, your interpreter can translate for you in the voting booth. If you are deaf and cannot bring someone to interpret for you, call your country prior to the day you vote to request an interpreter. Contact the Texas Secretary of State Election Divisions Office at 1-800-252-VOTE (8683) for the number to call in your county. Disability Rights Texas recommends calling your county to make your request at least 48 hours in advance up to the day that you vote. If your county will not provide an interpreter or fails to provide an interpreter, please call the Disability Rights Texas Voting Right Hotline at 1-800-796-VOTE (8683).

Rather than voting in person, you have the right to use one of the following alternative voting methods. Curbside voting is available during early voting on Election Day. If you are physically unable to enter the polling place, you may ask that an election officer bring a ballot to you at the entrance to the polling place or to a car at curbside. After you mark the ballot, give it to the election officer who will place it in the ballot box, or at your request, a companion may hand you a ballot and deposit it for you. It is recommended that you call your county's election official ahead of time to let them know what time you will be at your polling site. Call the Texas Secretary of State Election Divisions Office at 1-800-252-VOTE (8683) to find out the phone number for your county.

Another way to vote is to vote by mail instead of going to the polls to vote on Election Day. If you are a registered voter you can apply to vote by mail. Only certain people, including people with disabilities, can get approved to vote by mail. When you receive notice that your application is approved, a ballot will be mailed to you. After marking the ballot, you will mail it back to the County Clerk to be counted. You must reapply once a year to vote by mail.

In addition to your specific voting rights as a person with a disability, there’s some other information that we think you may find helpful. For instance, if you find it difficult to vote at your assigned polling place on Election Day, you may choose to vote at a more convenient time and location by participating in early voting. You can vote early in person during the early voting period, which begins 17 days before Election Day and ends 4 days before Election Day you can vote early at any early polling place in your county.

Also, you have the right to complete a provisional ballot if there is any question about your eligibility to vote. Your ballot will be counted once election officials determine you are entitled to vote.

Do you feel like your voting rights have been violated due to any of the following reasons: You’re told you cannot register to vote because of your disability; you were not able to enter or exit the polling site because of your disability; you faced barriers inside the polling place that limited your ability to vote, or prevented you from voting; you did not receive assistance that you needed from poll workers to operate the voting device to be able to cast your ballot; you were not allowed to vote; or any other reason that prevented you from voting.

If you experience any of these situations or believe your rights were violated any other way while voting, there are several things you can do immediately. Tell the election judge at the polling site about your issue. Contact your county elections official. Contact the Texas Secretary of State Elections Divisions Office at 1-800-252-VOTE (8683). Contact the Disability Rights Texas voting rights toll-free hotline at 1-800-796-VOTE (8683). A member of our voting rights tem will assist you. Please have the name and address of the polling location available and a description of how you felt your rights were violated.

As a U.S. citizen you have the right to vote, and as a person with a disability you have other specific rights intended to assist in exercising your right to vote. Disability Rights Texas is available to help. Please call us if you need any assistance or have questions about your voting rights. Thank you.   


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