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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Survey: When it comes to being accessible, Not all polling places are equal

Friday, February 17, 2006

Andy McCammon photos

(Top) a 2004 survey of Clay County polling places to determine compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines found the Poland Firehouse sorely under-equipped to accommodate handicapped voters. The facility received a compliance grade of 60 percent, the lowest in the county.

(Below) at the other end of the spectrum, the Knightsville Community House received a compliance grade of 94 percent, with only a few minor violations listed.

Of the 22 polling locations in Clay County evaluated in 2004 for compliance to the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), there was one clear loser.

Serving voters in the Cass 1 Precinct, the Poland Firehouse was cited for a laundry list of ADAAG violations: The gravel parking area outside the building was deemed unsuitable for wheelchair traffic; its door handles are not equipped with levers or push plates to ease entry for disabled voters; and the single stair leading into the building's main entrance has not been outfitted with a ramp.

In all, the 2004 survey-- devised by the state elections division and performed by employees in the clerk's office, listed 14 ADAAG violations and slapped the Poland Firehouse with a 60 percent overall compliance rating, narrowly beating out 63-percent-compliant Meridian Elementary School in Brazil as the most problematic voting location in the county.

Clay County Clerk Mary Brown acknowledged that several polling places in the county are less than ideal, but said she remains confident the ADAAG-deficient facilities will serve their purpose.

Penalties for compliance violations can only be levied by the federal government, and must be predicated by a citizen complaint. Despite the shortcomings of several Clay County polling places, Brown said she has never received such a complaint during her time in office.

Three voting locations tied for the highest ADAAG compliance rating in the county. Forest Park Elementary School (Brazil 4 and Jackson 3), the Central West Village Community Building (Brazil 6) and the Knightsville Community House (Van Buren 2) all received a grade of 94 percent. Though each facility met 33 of 35 possible ADAAG points, the Knightsville Community House was cited for just two itemized violations, the fewest of any voting location in the county.

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