Kauai News

State Agency Helps to Make Voting Accessible for Individuals with Disabilities Ahead of Primaries

By Amanda Kurth

Posted August 9, 2022, 10:39 AM HST

With mail-in ballots for the 2022 Primary Elections now being accepted, the Hawai‘i Disability Rights Center, or HDRC, reminds the public of its commitment to ensure Hawai‘i residents with disabilities are able to cast their votes.

HDRC, the state’s advocacy agency for individuals with disabilities, emphasized in an Aug. 3 press release its mantra, “Every vote counts!” to include those with disabilities. The agency provides free advice and assistance to Hawai‘i residents with physical or mental impairments who want to vote in the 2022 elections.

“We hope that people with disabilities will look into the options that are available to them, because every vote really matters, especially in tight races,” said HDRC’s executive director Louis Erteschik.

HDRC operations manager Michael Rabanal added staff can be an ally to someone who may want to vote but just doesn’t feel comfortable navigating the process alone due to their disability.

While voter service centers are able to provide voting machines that are physically accessible and still protect the voter’s privacy, HDRC underlines that resources are in place to help voters who may not be able to use the standard system. Rabanal stated that voters with low vision or blindness may not be able to read the ballot, but that voting machines are provided with audible ballots.

“Other voters are in wheelchairs or have limited mobility,” he added.

Completed Alternate Format Ballots can also be returned electronically to the County Elections office or via the return ballot envelope that is included in the mail ballot packet. HDRC’s team of nine advocates can help with registering to vote, explain how to cast a vote with accommodations, or address any concerns experienced at a Voter Service Center.

And while Voter Service Centers are limited in number throughout the state, the advocacy agency recommends voting early. If you prefer to vote in person, HDRC emphasizes that all Voter Service Centers are open for voting a full two weeks before each election.

Ballot drop boxes should be accessible, and Voter Service Centers offer same-day registration, accessible in-person voting, and ballot collection. The centers are equipped with accessible ballot marking devices, the Verity Touch Writer, that can then be printed and cast just like any other ballot. The Primary Election is on Aug. 13 and the General Election is on Nov. 8.

Hawaii Disability Rights Center is a nonprofit Hawai‘i corporation founded in July 1977 primarily to protect and guarantee the human, civil, and legal rights of persons with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and other disabilities of all ages in the state. For information or assistance with voting in the state, individuals with disabilities can click here.

For questions or concerns call HDRC’s Honolulu office toll-free at 800-882-1057 or email them directly at info@hawaiidisabilityrights.org

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Amanda Kurth
Amanda lives in Hanapēpē. She has had a love for newspapers and journalism since she was 12 years old. She attended the University of Oregon where she obtained a journalism degree. She interned at the Hermiston Herald. She has been a Kauai Now contributor since June 2022.
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