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Santa Cruz, Kern Agree To Improve Poll Site Disability Access
SACRAMENTO - Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today released the details of a settlement that requires Kern and Santa Cruz counties to improve accessibility to polling places. Each settlement requires the counties to upgrade polling facilities, employ an architectural consultant, and provide additional training to employees who select and setup accessible polling sites on election days.
These settlements resolve complaints filed by the Attorney General’s Office in 2005, after the state discovered that polling sites surveyed in Kern County and Santa Cruz County had barriers that could make access to the polling site difficult, hazardous or impossible for voters with disabilities.
Such barriers include: polling sites that had excessively steep slopes or other obstacles in the path of travel to the polling site, abrupt level changes in the walkways leading to the polling sites, accessible parking spaces that were not wide enough to accommodate vans and access ramps leading to polling sites that lacked handrails.
The settlement, which remains in effect until March 31, 2011, ensures polling sites in Kern and Santa Cruz will comply with state and federal architectural accessibility standards. Under the settlement, the counties must:
• Hire an architectural accessibility consultant who will inspect polling sites to ensure they conform to federal and state law.
• Hire experts to further educate the elections personnel who select polling sites.
• Create a committee to involve community members in the selection and location of accessible polling places and to encourage businesses to offer facilities for use as polling sites.
Counties will remedy any violations by either selecting more accessible polling sites or purchasing temporary accessibility measures such as temporary ramps.
During the 2002 March and November statewide elections, the attorney general, in conjunction with several independent living centers, found the polling site accessibility violations. The attorney general attempted to resolve these architectural accessibility violations, but follow-up surveys during the 2004 March and November statewide elections exposed more violations.
During the 2004 elections, the attorney general’s office surveyed 83 of Kern’s 146 polling sites and found at least one accessibility violation in 94 percent of the sites surveyed. A similar survey in Santa Cruz County, found that the 72 percent of the sites contained at least one significant accessibility violation.
The state alleged that these barriers violated the federal American with Disabilities Act (ADA) that requires polling sites to be accessible for voters with disabilities. California law requires that local governments select polling sites that comply with state and federal laws requiring easy access for voters with disabilities.
The settlement agreements are attached.