WHEREAS, voting is a fundamental right of all Americans who are at least 18 years old; and
WHEREAS, exercising the right to vote is crucial to the operation of our free and democratic society; and
WHEREAS, due to architectural, attitudinal, communicational, and other barriers, persons with disabilities do not vote at the same rate as persons without disabilities; and
WHEREAS, due to architectural, attitudinal, communicational, and other barriers, persons with disabilities often are discouraged or prevented from voting at the same locations and in the same manner as persons without disabilities; and
WHEREAS, due in part to the dispute that arose in Florida concerning the 2000 Presidential election, new efforts are being made in Pennsylvania and elsewhere to ensure that voting procedures are equitable and open to all eligible voters; and
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Voting Modernization Task Force Report completed at the request of Governor Ridge has recommended the modernization of voting systems and machines used in Pennsylvania elections including the adding of features which permit independent use by voters who have disabilities, including vision impairments; and
WHEREAS, pending Federal legislation (S-565 as amended on December 19, 2001) will require polling place access and voting machine access, and the states of Texas, Maryland, Alaska, Virginia and Georgia have already passed their own state legislation requiring polling and voting machine access; and
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has no legislation requiring improved access to polling places and voting machines; and
WHEREAS, the Legal Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the Pennsylvania Bar Association has also presented to its Board of Governors a resolution which parallels this Resolution.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports legislative and/or administrative changes necessary to ensure that voting procedures in Pennsylvania are accessible to all persons with disabilities, including, but not limited to, a requirement that all polling places be accessible to persons with mobility disabilities and that all newly purchased voting machines be accessible to and independently usable by persons with physical and/or visual impairments.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes the Chancellor to take all necessary steps to communicate this enacted resolution to the Pennsylvania General Assembly's Joint Select Committee to Examine Election Issues and to the Federal Election Commission encouraging these entities to support and enact appropriate legislation to afford equal access to polling places and voting machines for voters with disabilities, including voters who are blind or visually impaired.PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION