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Clark County Must Be ADA Compliant For Next Election

Clark County, Indiana lawmakers must decide how the county will comply with the American with Disabilities Act for fall and spring elections. Changing the way the county votes could increase voter access and save the county money.

The county’s ADA compliant voting machines came under scrutiny last spring after all the devices failed to record votes. Federal law says the county must provide one ADA machine at each polling location; if it does not an election could be recalled, which is what then-Clarksville clerk-treasurer candidate Gary Hall tried to have happen, said Robert Bottorff, Clark County election board attorney. The county must now decide how it will comply with ADA for the fall and spring elections.

One option is to switch from precinct polling places to voting centers, said Bottorff. The county would then have to purchase fewer machines, he said, and voters could then vote at any of the ten proposed voting centers, instead of being subjected to one of the 54 county precincts.

“The whole concept behind vote centers is when you have people that are voting like that it gives them an opportunity to vote at a multitude of different locations, whereas right now I can only vote at only one precinct location,” said Bottorff.

The commissioners will consider a contract with RBM Consulting, LLC to purchase 20 new ADA machines and the additional services required for $150,000 to comply for this fall’s municipal election. But next spring they will have to decide whether they want to purchase more machines, or change the way the county votes, said Bottorff.

“We need one machine per polling location to be compliant with the law. The way it is now we have 54 total polling locations. I guess if we don’t go to a vote center method it’s going to cost us a lot more in up front costs.”

It’s still early in the process but Botorff is prepared to write the necessary ordinances and to schedule public comment on the voting centers, he said.

Although funding for elections is mandated, the county still struggles with a growing $1.2 million deficit.

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Louisville Disability Protesters Question Proposed Legislation

A group protested outside Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) Louisville office on Tuesday.

The protest was meant to raise awareness of a bill being considered by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions, which Paul sits on.

The legislation was drafted by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). It will help protect youth with disabilities from sub-minimum wage employment and will help them into the competitive workforce, Harkin wrote in an email.

“But there is a provision in this re-authorization that would in effect say, well under certain circumstances you can put people in these minimum-wage jobs,” said Chris Danielsen with the National Federation of the Blind.

The U.S. government contracts with rehabilitation agencies that help to employ persons with disabilities, he said. The concern is that placing people with disabilities in low-wage positions was never sanctioned before and the legislation’s language will make it easier for rehabilitation agencies to refer them to these low-wage jobs, he said.

“You’re dealing with people who may very vulnerable. Not just blind people but people who have developmental disabilities,” said Danielsen.

Dennis Franklin was at the protests in Louisville. He and his wife are also members of the National Federation for the Blind of Greater Louisville. He says depending on a person’s disability, employers can already pay minimum wage or less.

“They hire handicap people and rate them as unproductive so that they can under their certificate pay them sub-minimum wages,” said Franklin.

Not all businesses and organizations do this, though. Several protestors said IC Solutions pays its disabled workers more than minimum wage.

But, Danielsen said the legislation will make it easier for rehabilitation agencies to refer people with disabilities to low-wage jobs, where before the purpose was to make them part of a competitive workforce.

“For me that increases the chances of people will stay dependent rather than be independent and stay on the social security rolls rather than having a quality affordable life,” said Marcellus Mayes, president of the Metro Disability Coalition.

Calls to Paul’s office were not returned. He previously questioned the need for the Americans with Disabilities Act.