A recent study from Austin Community College confirms what we already know; Texans with disabilities are conscientious about their voting rights.
HEY, YOU HAVE RIGHTS!
Per the Texas Secretary of State, as a registered voter in Texas, you have the right to:
- A ballot with written instructions on how to cast a ballot.
- Ask the polling place official for instructions on how to cast a ballot (but not suggestions on how to vote).
- Cast your vote in secret and free from intimidation.
- Receive up to two more ballots if you make a mistake while marking the ballot.
- Bring an interpreter to assist you as you qualify to vote if you do not understand the English language.
- Help to cast your ballot if you cannot write, see the ballot, or understand the language in which it is written.
- Report a possible voting rights abuse to the Secretary of State (1.800.252.8683) or to your local election official.
- Cast a provisional ballot if your name does not appear on the list of registered voters.
- (1) Cast a provisional ballot (a) if you do not possess one of the seven (7) acceptable forms of photo identification, which is not expired for more than four years, and you can reasonably obtain one of these forms of identification or (b) if you possess, but did not bring to the polling place, one of the seven forms of acceptable photo identification, which is not expired for more than four years, or (c) if you do not possess one of the seven forms of acceptable photo identification, which is not expired for more than four years, you could otherwise not obtain one due to a reasonable impediment, but you did not bring a supporting form of identification to the polling place, and (2) the right to present one of the acceptable forms of photo identification, which is not expired for more than four years, to the county voter registrar’s office within six (6) calendar days after election day.
- Vote once at any early voting location during the early voting period within the territory conducting the election.
- File an administrative complaint with the Secretary of State concerning violations of federal and state voting procedures.
FOR INFORMATION ON IMPORTANT 2018 ELECTION DATES:
THE NEXT ELECTION TAKES PLACE ON:
MARCH 6, 2018 PRIMARY ELECTION
The Primary Election will take place on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Last day to register to vote is Monday, February 5, 2018. Early voting takes place from Tuesday, February 20, 2018 – Friday, March 02, 2018. Check your county elections website for voting information and locations. To learn more about ID required for voting in person, check out the FAQs.
Voting is easy, so is getting the facts
MORE ABOUT VOTER ID >
Voters With Special Needs
Services Available to Voters with Special Needs in Texas
- People with disabilities have the right to register to vote so long as they are eligible, which means they:
- Are citizens of the United States;
- Are at least 17 years and 10 months old at time of registration (but to vote, they must be 18 years of age by Election Day);
- Have not been finally convicted of a felony, or if they have been convicted, have completed all of their punishment, including any term of incarceration, parole, supervision, probation, or have received a pardon;
- Note: Deferred adjudication is not a final felony conviction.
- Have not been determined by a final judgment of a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be totally mentally incapacitated or partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote.
- Individuals who have legal guardians may be eligible to register, depending on whether the court took away their right to vote. All guardianship orders issued after September 1, 2007 must state whether the individual can vote.
- People with disabilities can receive assistance registering to vote from any state agency that provides services to persons with disabilities or from any person they choose.
Accessible Voting Systems
- On September 1, 1999, Texas became the first state to require that all new voting systems be accessible to voters with disabilities and provide a practical and effective means for voters with disabilities to cast a secret ballot.
- In every federal election (and most nonfederal elections), each polling place will offer at least one type of accessible voting equipment or Direct Record Electronic (“DRE”) device. This equipment allows voters with disabilities to vote directly on the system or assist them in marking the paper ballot. Depending on the type of system, voters with disabilities may use headphones or other assistive devices to help them vote independently and secretly.
- In certain nonfederal elections held in counties with a population of less than 20,000, accessible machines may not be available at every polling place. To determine if accessible machines will be available or to request an accommodation, contact the early voting clerk of the county or political subdivision holding the election at least 21 days before the election.
All Polling Places in Texas Must be Accessible
Polling places should support voters, not hinder them. When you go to the polls in Texas, you can expect:
- Your polling place will meet strict accessibility standards, including:
- A location on the ground floor that can be entered from the street or via an elevator with doors that open at least 36 inches
- Doors, entrances, and exits used to enter or leave the polling place that are at least 32 inches wide
- Any curb next to the main entrance to the polling place must have curb-cuts or temporary non-slip ramps
- Stairs necessary to enter or leave the polling place must have handrails on each side and a non-slip ramp.
- Removal of all barriers such as gravel, automatically closing gates, closed doors without lever-type handles, or any other barrier that impedes the path of the physically disabled to the voting station.
- Voting systems that are accessible to voters with physical disabilities and can accommodate no vision, low vision, no hearing, low hearing, limited manual dexterity, limited reach, limited strength, no mobility, low mobility, or any combination of the foregoing (except the combination of no hearing and no vision)
- Each polling place will offer at least one type of accessible voting equipment or Direct Record Electronic (“DRE”) device. This equipment allows voters with disabilities to vote directly on the system or assist them in marking the paper ballot. Depending on the type of system, voters with disabilities may use headphones or other assistive devices to help them vote independently and secretly.
Voters May Receive Assistance at the Polls
Tell the election official if you are a voter who needs help to vote. You do not have to provide proof of your disability. Voters are entitled to receive assistance if they:
- Cannot read or write; or
- Have a physical disability that prevents them from reading or marking the ballot; or
- Cannot speak English, or communicate only with sign language, and want assistance in communicating with election officials.
Voters may be assisted by:
- Any person the voter chooses who is not an election worker;
- Two election workers on Election Day; or
- One election worker during early voting.
Voters MAY NOT be assisted by:
- Their employer;
- An agent of their employer; or
- An officer or agent of their union.
The person assisting the voter must read him or her the entire ballot, unless the voter asks to have only parts of the ballot read. The person assisting the voter must take an oath that he or she will not try to influence the voter’s vote and will mark the ballot as the voter directs. If the voter chooses to be assisted by polling place officials, poll watchers and election inspectors may observe the voting process, but if the voter asks to be assisted by a person the voter chooses, no one else may watch him or her vote.
It is illegal for a person assisting the voter to:
- Try to influence the voter’s vote;
- Mark the voter’s ballot in a way other than the way they have asked; or
- Tell anyone how the voter voted.
Voters May Use Interpreters at the Polls
Voters who cannot speak English, or who communicate only with sign language, may use an interpreter to help them communicate with election officials, regardless of whether the election official(s) attending to the voter can speak the same language as the voter. The voter may select any person other than the voter’s employer, an agent of the voter’s employer, or an officer or agent of a labor union to which the voter belongs. If the voter cannot read the languages on the ballot, the interpreter may also assist by translating the language on the ballot for the voter in the voting booth. (See assistance section above for more details.) If the voter is deaf and does not have a sign language interpreter who can accompany them to help communicate with the poll worker or read the ballot, the voter should contact his or her local election officials before the election and request assistance. NOTE: This is a change in prior law, due to Court Orders issued on August 12 and 30, 2016.
If a voter is physically unable to enter the polling place, he or she may ask that an election officer bring a ballot to the entrance of the polling place or to a car at parked at the curbside. After the voter marks the ballot, they will give it to the election officer, who will put it in the ballot box. Or, at the voter’s request, a companion may hand the voter a ballot and deposit it for him or her.
TIP FOR VOTER WITH DISABILITY: If you plan to go alone to vote curbside, it is wise to call ahead so election officials will expect you. Generally speaking, you may vote curbside during the early voting period (the 17th day before Election Day until the 4th day before Election Day) or on Election Day. For a May uniform election date or resulting runoff election, the early voting period is the 12th day before Election Day until the 4th day before Election Day.
Voters May Vote Early, Either in Person or by Mail
Voters who vote during the early voting period may vote at any early voting site in the political subdivision that is holding the election. Alternatively, if a voter will be 65 years of age or older on Election Day, has a disability, or will be outside the county during early voting hours and on Election Day, the voter can apply to vote by mail. Simply submit a completed and signed Application for a Ballot by Mail any time from the 60th to the 11th day before Election Day to the proper county early voting clerk. Applications for a Ballot by Mail may also be submitted in person at the main early voting polling location, as long as early voting by personal appearance is NOT taking place. For further information on voting early in person or by mail, including information on assistance in requesting, marking, or mailing a ballot by mail, please read their pamphlet titled “Early Voting in Texas.” Get your application here.
For additional information, contact:
Secretary of State
P.O. Box 12060
Austin, Texas 78711-2060
512.463.5650 or 1.800.252.VOTE (8683)
Fax 512.475.2811, TTY 7.1.1
County Election Officials
For a list of county election officials, see the Secretary of State’s website
Disability Rights Texas
Voting Rights Project for Voters with Disabilities
2222 West Braker Lane
Austin, TX 78758
1-888-796-VOTE (8683) (V/TTY)
Published by the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office. This pamphlet is available in Spanish, large print, audiotape, or computer disc upon request.
(Este folleto está disponible en Español, tipo de imprenta más grande, cinta magnética para audio, o disco para computadora. Para conseguir una de estas versiones por favor llame sin cargo a la oficina del Secretario de Estado al 1.800.252.VOTE (8683)).
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON VOTING, PLEASE VISIT:
The Texas Talking Book Program Shares their Latest News:
Impact of President Trump’s proposed budget: On March 13, 2017, President Donald J. Trump released his preliminary federal budget for fiscal year 2018. Among the agencies slated for complete elimination is the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). IMLS is an independent federal agency that supports museums and libraries of all types. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission, of which Talking Book Program is a division, receives nearly $11 million in federal funds from IMLS. Most of these funds are distributed to libraries around the state through grants. Approximately $480,000, however, is part of the Talking Book Program budget. This represents about 20% of the TBP budget, so if IMLS is eliminated, the impact on TBP will be significant. Here’s what federal funds pay for in the TBP budget:
- Purchase of Braille and large print books
- The daily printing of thousands of address cards for books mailed to patrons
- Printing and mailing patron newsletters in large print
- Outreach and educational activities, including the salary of the outreach coordinator
- Utilities for the Circulation facility where the books are housed and the daily mail is processed
- Maintenance and upkeep of TBP’s automation server in the statewide data center
- Replacement of our aging computer equipment and software
- One-time projects—such as upgrading wiring and cabling—for which other funds are not available
At this writing, there is no information about cuts for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) or the Library of Congress.
You may wish to inform your senators and representatives in Congress about the importance of federal funding for library programs, including for TBP. If you need assistance in determining who your representatives are, please call 1-800-252-9605 and ask a reader consultant to look up contact information for congressional representatives based on your home address. You may also send an email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance from TBP staff.
Upcoming Sunset Commission review: TBP’s parent agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), will be undergoing sunset review during the next two years. All state agencies go through a sunset review every twelve years. The purpose of the review is to determine if the agency is carrying out its functions and whether or not those functions are still needed. The review is overseen by the Sunset Advisory Committee, which reports to the Legislature. During the next legislative session in 2019, legislation will need to be passed to continue TSLAC as an operational agency. If you are interested in reading about the sunset process, please visit the advisory committee’s web site at www.sunset.state.tx.us.
If you wish to participate in the sunset process, here are two ways that you may do so. TSLAC has posted to its web site an online survey to gather information for the self study that the agency is required to file with the Sunset Advisory Committee. There is a special section for TBP. If you would like to fill out the survey, you may find it at this link:http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3455268/tslacsunsetsurvey. We will also be having some call-in sessions with TBP staff so that you may ask questions about the sunset process and give us your opinions. These calls will require reservations because of limited slots on the call. If you are interested in participating in one of the phone calls, please call 1-800-252-9605 to reserve your spot.
Until next time,
Ava Smith, Director, Talking Book Program
Texans With Disabilities CAN Influence the Outcome of Local and State Elections!
For information on how you can influence the election:
RISE Relocation Specialists and Executive Director Join ADAPT in March at State Capitol to Advocate for Community Attendants
RISE Relocation Specialists and Executive Director joined forces with ADAPT of Texas to advocate and “educate the public and state officials on personal attendant work issues and economic survival.”
If you have questions or concerns about the most recent legislature and funding concerning individuals with disabilities, look no further! Coalition of Texans with Disabilities has all the latest information on the 85th Texas Legislature and how it will affect individuals with disabilities, including Special Education. For their latest newsletter, click here:
PACT has started a Texas Attendant Project to recruit attendants and supporters of attendants to add their voices and faces to the call for decent wages for community attendants in Texas. There is a petition on the Adapt of Texas Website in English and Spanish you can download and sign to support better wages. There will be a Respect and More Community Attendant Rally and briefing (all information is included in the infographic below):
Should you have any questions, or need any information, you can contact Texas Legal Services Center by following the link provided or calling 512-637-6752 or 1-800-622-2520.