New National Poll: U.S. Voters with Disabilities Face Multiple Voting Challenges

Florida, United States – October 1, 2019 – More than half of U.S. voters with disabilities have experienced challenges casting their votes in person, according to a new national poll prepared for Smartmatic by Southpaw Insights.  Of those experiencing challenges, voting machines were cited as problematic by 28 percent, and of those, 45 percent say that problems with voting machines have kept them home on Election Day.

“We found that voters with disabilities place tremendous value on being able to vote independently, privately and in the same way as everyone else,” said Jessica Broome, Ph.D., Southpaw Insights founder and CEO. “Improvements in the accessibility and usability of voting machines would provide a real opportunity to make the election experience better for voters with physical and cognitive disabilities.”

Voters with disabilities make up a significant voting block. Roughly one in six eligible voters in America has a disability. According to recent research from Rutgers University, turnout for voters with disabilities in the 2018 mid-terms was approximately 14.3 million people, surpassing the number of Hispanic/Latino voters (11.7 million) and nearing African-American turnout (15.2 million).   

“The separate but equal approach to voting that many policymakers and election jurisdictions seem content to continue offering is unacceptable to these American citizens,” said Jim Dickson, co-chair of the National Council on Independent Living’s Civic Engagement and Voting Rights Committee. “The technology exists right now to bring inclusiveness and equality to voting – the only thing missing is the political will to fund it.”

The survey of 1,004 registered voters with some form of vision, cognitive, hearing, or mobility impairment found that 65 percent want voting machine improvements such as more user-friendly machines (32 percent). One quarter of the respondents said they wanted no paper ballots.

“Eliminating the need to handle paper, which can be a challenge to voters with certain disabilities, is a key part of advocacy efforts by groups like the American Association of People with Disabilities’ nonpartisan Disability Vote Project, a broad coalition of 36 national disability-related organizations,” said Carole Tonks, executive director of Alliance Center for Independence.  

The survey also found that not only do voters with disabilities want voting machine enhancements, 41 percent would like to have the option to vote remotely. This tops the list of improvements voters with disabilities would like to see in future elections. 

“Smartmatic has always taken an inclusive approach, employing human-centered design principles to develop technology that is easy to use, accessible for all, and extremely secure,” said Kevin Shelly, president of Smartmatic USA. “The claim that there is a trade-off between security and accessibility is false and misleading.  Smartmatic has processed more than 4.6 billion votes worldwide without a security breach on voting equipment thus enabling election officials to provide an inclusive experience for all voters.”