Overcoming voting obstacles as a senior.

Elections: Voting Obstacles and How to Overcome Them

When you know that every vote counts, how can you help family members, neighbors or friends exercise their right to vote? While many seniors are fully capable of participating without aid or incident, others will need some assistance in order to vote.

Let’s take Julia for example: Can Julia physically get to the voting station? Will she be able to stand in line while waiting to vote? Once there, will she understand how to enter her vote? Does she have any physical limitations that need to be navigated? Can someone help her? Or should she get an absentee ballot?

Assuming people are physically able to go to vote in person, voting locations are required to be accessible wherever possible. In some states, advances have been made to facilitate the voting experience, including ballot marking devices which provide more options for voting independently through audio and tactile interfaces. These new systems may also allow voters to adjust for size and contrast of the ballot image, and allow the use of a “Sip-N-Puff” or paddle device for voters with limited hand dexterity.

Since Eddy & Schein Group’s offices are located in New York and California, we will address those two states:

In New York, the voting systems are largely unchanged. However, personal aides are allowed to accompany their charges up to (but not into) the voting booth, and poll workers are available to make the registration and voting process less confusing.

In California, there are varying degrees of accessibility, but 1-2 people can accompany the voter into the booth to assist her/him with the voting process, so long as the voter isn’t their employee. If voters come unaccompanied, they can request for a poll worker to help them through the entire process.

In some states, including New York, the check-in process at the polling station is largely based on matching a voter’s signature to the one on file. Unfortunately, this means that, for people who no longer have the manual dexterity to write their signature, polling stations may not be an option. The most widely available alternative to dealing with the polling station is voting by absentee ballot, which can be applied for prior to election day.

By understanding the local voting process (registering to vote, applying for an absentee ballot, ballot deadlines), we can help ensure that anyone eligible to vote has the option to vote. Hopefully, with these guidelines, you can do the same research within your state, and make their voices heard come Election Day.

In New York in 2016 (use as a general guideline for the current year, but confirm dates):

  • Voter registration for the general election had to be done in person or postmarked by October 14th.
  • The last day to postmark an application for an absentee ballot was November 1st.
  • The last day for applications in person was November 7th.
  • The last day the filled-out ballot could be delivered in person was November 8th or November 7th by mail.

In California in 2016 (use as a general guideline for the current year, but confirm dates):

  • Voter registration for the general election had to be done online or postmarked by October 24th.
  • The last day to postmark an application for an absentee ballot was November 1st.
  • The last day the filled-out ballot could be delivered in person or postmarked was November 8th.

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