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John Daley ReportingUtah has a long way to go when it comes to making polling places accessible to those with disabilities, but a collaborative effort between advocacy groups, the state, and county clerks aims to reverse that.
Today the state capitol today is a polling place, and as polling places go this building gets high marks: there are plenty of well-marked parking places, there's a ramp that's not too steep, and doors that are wide enough for those in wheelchairs and don't have a threshold that is too high.
The Disability Law Center is partnering with the state of Utah and country clerks to fix access problems at polling places.
On Election Day 2004 the group surveyed 392 polling places and found problems at 370 of those sites, including parking problems and problems with accessible routes into buildings, entryways and interior doors. The goal now is to get them all fixed by Election Day 2006.
Maree Webb, Voter: "Negotiating a curb as short as two inches can be as difficult for someone with disabilities as climbing the summet of Mt. Everest."
Gary Herbert, Lt. Governor: "When we get through 2006, we hope to find that there are no barriers for someone with a disability to cast a vote."
Fraser Nelson, Exec. Director, Disability Law Center: "One thing we found is that 150,000 voters who could have voted in the last election did not."
There is some state and local money available to make the necessary fixes by 2006. In some counties it may require polling places be moved. The Salt Lake County Clerk says the county will need to move eight polling locations, and another 12 may have to be moved.
So there is lots of room for improvement, and for many people things will be getting better soon.