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For Vermonters With Disabilities, There Are Alternative Ways To Vote

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Howard Weiss-Tisman
/
VPR
Krystale Aloise, who has an anxiety disorder, asks Brattleboro Town Clerk Annette Cappy a question while voting early at the Brattleboro Municipal Center.

Many Vermonters across the state took part in their Town Meeting Day activities by voting. But for people with disabilities, there are barriers to performing this important civic duty.

Krystale Aloise has an anxiety disorder, and so waiting in line on voting day and then being ushered into a tiny voting booth can be traumatic.

"For me, going to the polling place on the day of the polls is just so intense  and difficult that I often don't go even though I want to," Aloise says. "It's often very sad not to go and be able to have my vote, but it's too overwhelming, there's so many people, it's so crowded ... It's difficult."

Aloise voted once before, but she learned recently that anyone can vote early. So she showed up one morning at the Brattleboro town clerk's office to cast her vote.

Vermont offers a wide range of services to help disabled people vote, both before Election Day and at the polls.

But Andrea Evey, who works for the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, says there are still challenges: getting the word out to people about the options, providing transportation and navigating 200-year-old town halls where the voting often takes place.

"It's our right as citizens to be able to go to our polling place to vote, and not being able to do that because we have a disability is not a fair thing to have happen." - Andrea Evey, Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired

"It's our right as citizens to be able to go to our polling place to vote, and not being able to do that because we have a disability, it's not a fair thing to have happen," she says. "So it would be nice if the system was definitely made more accommodating for people with disabilities."

Micah Ranquist is blind, and for years he says he had to request a volunteer to help him at the polls.

He recently learned about a vote-by-phone system that Vermont uses.

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Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
Micah Rinquest, who is blind, just found out about a vote-by-phone service that allows him to cast his own vote on Town Meeting Day.

"I've always not liked the idea of not having that dignity of independent, anonymous voting, like everyone else does," Rinquest says. "I've had to use volunteers, as my request for the ballot option. I don't know, it just feels better to do it entirely on my own."

The Americans With Disabilities Act requires all polling places to provide auxiliary aids that are needed to enable people with disabilities to vote.

The law also says towns have to make sure public polling places are accessible.

Learn more about voting accessibility in Vermont here.

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