Secretary of State Trey Grayson, chief election officer of the Commonwealth and Chairman of the State Board of Elections, joined Sarah Ball Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Elections, to announce that the State Board of Elections is a recipient of the federal Election Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (EAID) grant. This $169,755 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services was created as part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
“We are very excited to announce the receipt of this grant,” stated Secretary Grayson. “This will allow us to expand our efforts to provide access to the democratic process to every Kentucky citizen.”
Specifically, the grant will utilized to make polling places accessible to individuals with full range of disabilities, including the path of travel, entrances, exits, and voting areas of each polling facility. It will also fund education efforts that includes providing individuals with information about the accessibility of polling places as well as training election officials, poll workers, and election volunteers on how best to promote the access and participation of individuals with disabilities in elections.
The State Board of Elections has entered into a contract with the Kentucky Disabilities Coalition (KDC) to help administer the grant. The KDC will conduct polling place surveys and recommend ways to eliminate barriers to access for Kentuckians with disabilities. They will also be intricately involved with the education component of the grant in addition to developing a questionnaire to evaluate the usability of voting systems for individuals with disabilities.
“We at the KDC are excited about having this opportunity to work with the State Board of Election,” said Ms. Sharon Fields, Executive Director of the KDC. “Kentuckians with disabilities have always been desirous of being able to exercise their right to vote independently. This grant will enable us to achieve that effectively.” Ms. Fields serves on the Kentucky HAVA advisory panel.
The Kentucky Disabilities Coalition is a statewide non-profit organization comprised of individuals with disabilities, their families, disability organizations, and disability service providers. KDC is qualified to develop these procedures based upon the Americans with Disability Act Accessibility Guidelines and other applicable federal laws.
The Commonwealth’s HAVA plan calls for voting equipment in all polling locations to be accessible to individuals with disabilities at a cost of approximately $17 million dollars. Those machines are scheduled to be in place by 2006 as required by HAVA.
“It is my hope that the work of the KDC through this grant will encourage more Kentuckians with disabilities to vote in elections. This process will help to remove many psychological as well as physical barriers that may discourage them from voting,” said Grayson.
The KDC is currently looking for individuals with disabilities who will volunteer to assist in the polling place surveys. If you have a disability and would like to participate in the survey process, please contact the KDC office at 1-800-977-7505.