Feds watch Harris Co. polls for ADA violations

Federal poll watchers will be at the poll sin Harris County on Election Day to make sure anyone will a disability can cast a ballot.

Six teams from the U.S. Department of Justice will be headed to 75 polling locations in Harris County on Election Day to make sure those polling stations are accessible to people with disabilities.

The DOJ had until 5 p.m. Monday to decide which polling places they will visit. In a ruling Thursday, a federal judge in Houston says these sites will be ones that have previously gotten complaints or are located near a high concentration of potentially disabled voters.

The ruling comes in the midst of an ongoing lawsuit the Department of Justice filed against Harris County in August, claiming its polling sites don’t meet regulations laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart says DOJ teams spent three days during the previous week visiting most of the early voting sites with the County Attorney looking for ADA violations.

“I know at West Gray they actually found where a tree limb would touch a person if it was over six-and-a-half foot tall,” Stanart said. “We’ve had the issues before where they complained before about a handicap parking place that had a handicap sign but it did not say ‘van accessible.' It’s usually the small technical issue. Like I said, we never had a complaint. We don’t know of any voter who had never been able to access our polls who had handicapped issues.”

Stanart says his office got one complaint during early voting about someone with a disability needing accommodations finding a seat while they waited to cast their ballot. A spokesman for Stanart’s office says the feds reported four complaints, but a DOJ rep wouldn’t comment beyond what was in court documents.

(© 2016 KHOU)


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