I am an Ultra-Conservative, Alpha-Male, True Authentic Leader, Type "C" Personality, who is very active in my community; whether it is donating time, clothes or money for Project Concern or going to Common Council meetings and voicing my opinions. As a blogger, I intend to provide a different viewpoint "The way I see it!" on various world, national and local issues with a few helpful tips & tidbits sprinkled in.
Disabled woman forced to vote at bottom of stairs
A disabled Milwaukee retiree says she was deprived of her right to a secret ballot Tuesday, and it started with an inoperable wheelchair lift.
"This particular situation is the most serious situation we've run across in the last few years," said Reid Magney, a spokesman with the Government Accountability Board.
Marsha Valance, 66, said the handicapped lift at Juneau High School in Milwaukee was out of order when she arrived with her walker about 7:10 a.m. Tuesday. Because she couldn't get up the stairs, she called out for a poll worker. A worker subsequently carried her ballot downstairs to her without a sleeve and handed the ballot and a pencil to her. Leaning against her walker, she filled out the ballot at the bottom of the stairs just inside the door with no privacy.
"I saw the poll worker reading it as he carried it back upstairs," Valance said in an interview Tuesday. "It's a matter of the right to vote a secret ballot. I got to vote, but it wasn't secret. I just think that's so outrageous."
Magney said the GAB has been conducting audits for the past few years under a federal grant. It audits between 100 and 200 of Wisconsin's 2,000 voting sites every year.
"We run into issues at many polling places that are in older buildings that need to be fixed. When we find issues, we bring them to the attention of the municipality that's in charge and work with them to gain compliance," he said. "Fewer than 10% have had no problems whatsoever. However, there are very few where there are actual barriers to voting."
Magney said it's the City of Milwaukee's responsibility to make sure the polling place is handicapped accessible. The state oversees that effort.
Valance said it wasn't the first time she had encountered an "out of order" sign on the lift at Juneau High School. She said the same thing happened twice in elections this spring, and she complained both times.
"I didn't complain on a scatter-gun basis the first two times," she said. "I just did what I thought was appropriate and complained to the City of Milwaukee, and the second time to the state. The third time's the charm. They're not doing it to me anymore, especially with the presidential election coming up."
Neil Albrecht, executive director with the city's election commission, said contrary to Valance's statement, no one had brought the problem with the lift to his attention until he received an email from Milwaukee Public Schools three days before the election.
"Three days before an election is not sufficient time to change the voting site," Albrecht said. "We did offer curbside voting and any other accommodations that were available to ensure any person with a disability would still be able to vote at that site."
He said poll workers had offered that Valance could use an alternate elevator in the school, but the distance was too far for her.
Alicia Boehme, a voting rights coordinator with Disability Rights Wisconsin, called Valance's experience "totally unacceptable."
"Curbside voting can be a choice for people with a disability, but it shouldn't be an excuse for the polling site to be accessible," she said when she heard about Valance's experience from the Journal Sentinel. She added that curbside voting is not a permanent fix. The GAB has eight auditors who were making unannounced visits at a total of about 150 polling places across southeastern Wisconsin to check for accessibility Tuesday. One of those auditors was in the Juneau area and confirmed that the wheelchair lift at Juneau wasn't working, according to an email that the GAB's Michael Lind sent to Valance after she complained.
"We conveyed this information to the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, and they arranged an alternate entrance to the polling place. We will follow up with the City of Milwaukee to ensure that the wheelchair lift is repaired or an alternative polling place found before the Nov. 6, 2012, general election," he wrote.
Albrecht said that if the school system can't get the lift at Juneau fixed by November, the city will have to find another voting site.
And the left is worried about Voter ID! Oh and did we see any outrage from the left on this? I don’t remember seeing the left blogs talk about this!!!