Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plan Would Ease Voting for Disabled; Duval Polling Places Will Be Fixed to Meet Federal Standards or Moved to Sites with Easier Access

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plan Would Ease Voting for Disabled; Duval Polling Places Will Be Fixed to Meet Federal Standards or Moved to Sites with Easier Access

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID DECAMP

Jacksonville's polling places should finally meet federal standards for disabled access to voting sites under a plan by Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland.

The most recent survey showed only seven locations were fully compliant in 2003 for a county of 285 precincts.

The elections office will soon hire a company to assess its sites and determine how to fix trouble spots, such as adding portable ramps, or even try permanent changes.

The Jacksonville City Council has approved $250,000 for the improvements, and the elections office also has $50,000 from a federal grant. Holland intends to seek proposals from firms to do the work after the City Council finishes considering his measure to redraw and replace polling places early next year. By law the polling places must meet the standards when people vote in the statewide 2006 elections.

"We will do everything to meet the criteria," Holland said.

After taking office in 2005, Holland bought touch-screen machines with tools for disabled access to comply with the federal law passed after the 2000 election failures. It relieved a fight with several disabled voters and their advocates who sued Duval County to make the elections office comply with accessibility standards.

"I would say just in the brief encounters we've had since he [Holland] has been there, there does seem to be a much different approach now than there was then," said Dan O'Connor, a Jacksonville plaintiff in the lawsuit. "There does seem to be a much more pro-active, responsive approach."

Other area counties have been assessing their polling places, too. Besides putting accessible machines to use, the Clay County elections office is reviewing its 62 precincts and looking at which sites should be replaced and where temporary improvements can be made. …

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