Friday, April 18, 2014

MIT Study Shows Racially Discriminatory Impact of Long Lines to Vote

"...A Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis determined that blacks and Hispanics waited nearly twice as long in line to vote on average than whites. Florida had the nation’s longest lines, at 45 minutes, followed by the District of Columbia, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia, according to Charles Stewart III, the political science professor who conducted the analysis.
A separate analysis, by an Ohio State University professor and The Orlando Sentinel, concluded that more than 200,000 voters in Florida “gave up in frustration” without voting.
“When I got there, the line was around the building,” said Jonathan Piccolo, 33, who said he had waited nearly eight hours to cast a ballot in Miami-Dade County the Monday before Election Day...."

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/us/politics/waiting-times-to-vote-at-polls-draw-scrutiny.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0


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Petition to have DOJ Investigate Miami Dade's Closing of Bathrooms Gets Over 120,000 Signatures

The online petition asking the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice to investigate Miami Dade County for voter suppression has now been signed by over 120,000 people across the country. Visit http://campaigns.dailykos.com/p/dia/action/public/index.sjs?action_KEY=858 and sign the Petition.

MSNBC reports that Senator Bill Nelson has asked Attorney General Holder to have the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division open an investigation. Stay tuned.

To get more involved, join the Let My People Go Voting Campaign: Contact Marc Dubin, Esq., at mdubin@pobox.com and continue to visit www.ADAadvocacyBlog.org for updates.

For more information, visit The Ed Show on MSNBC: "A Creative Attack On Voting Rights" at on.msnbc.com/1h863aZ





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Thursday, April 17, 2014

MSNBC's Ed Show Discusses Miami Dade's Decision To Close Restrooms

The story of Miami Dade's decision to close restrooms at polling places rather than make them accessible to voters (by renting accessible portapotties, for example) went national today, as Ed Schultz, of the Ed Show on MSNBC, covered the story, entitled "A Creative Attack on Voter Rights" (April 17, 2014 - at http://www.msnbc.com/the-ed-show).


 He reported that US Senator Nelson has made a formal request to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to open an investigation. Senator Nelson is joined by thousands of citizens from all over the United States, requesting a DOJ investigation of this practice - an online petition asking for a DOJ investigation got over 120,000 signatures in the first week it was posted. See http://campaigns.dailykos.com/p/dia/action/public/index.sjs?action_KEY=858 and sign the petition.




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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Miami Dade Shuts Down Restrooms at Polling Places To Prevent Having to Provide Accessible Restrooms

Voters and Restrooms – Miami Dade Shuts Down Restrooms at Polling Places To Prevent Having to Provide Accessible Restrooms
By Marc Dubin, Esq.*

In response to an inquiry about whether voters with disabilities will be able to have accessible restrooms at polling places, Miami Dade County announced that it would not allow any voters to use a restroom at a polling site. The Supervisor of Elections Office wrote:

"...State statute does not mandate that the rest rooms in the polling location be ADA compliant.  …(I)n order to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not treated unfairly, the use of rest rooms by the Voters is not allowed on election day." (Email from Mr. Mendez to Marc Dubin, Esq., dated August 1st, 2013).

When the County Attorney’s Office was asked to comment on the policy, Assistant County Attorney Shanika Graves wrote:

“(T)he Department’s policy is not to permit access to restrooms at polling sites on election days…. This policy was implemented to avoid situations where accessible restrooms would be available to some, but not all voters." (Graves to Dubin, February 14th, 2014).

In the 2012 election, voters had to wait an average of 8 hours in line to cast a vote, with some voters waiting over 12 hours to cast a vote. See http://mediatrackers.org/florida/2014/02/20/miami-dade-rejects-redrawing-precincts-address-long-voting-lines: “Miami-Dade voter lines were among the longest in the nation during the 2012 elections, with some voters being forced to wait seven hours before getting an opportunity to vote.”

Despite an email from her associate at the Elections Department and an  email from the County Attorney’s office,  setting forth the policy of closing all restrooms, for all voters, at all polling places, the County’s Chief Deputy Elections official, Christina White, informed the media that:

“In actuality, the Elections Department does not have a specific policy for bathroom usage… Public facilities of course have restrooms that are open to the public. In the case of private facilities, we defer to the owner/operators policy on the use of their restroom.” See http://miami.cbslocal.com/2014/04/10/commode-confusion-can-miami-dade-voters-use-restrooms-at-polling-places-or-not/ 

Voters with disabilities and the elderly,  who need an accessible restroom,  are particularly hard hit by the County’s failure to ensure that restrooms are accessible. Many of the polling places to which voters are assigned on Election Day are located at churches, which are not legally required to be accessible to people with disabilities, because Congress specifically exempted religious sites from the ADA’s coverage when it passed the law in 1990. The County is required to take temporary steps to ensure the accessibility of its polling places, however, steps which may include, for example,  designating accessible parking spaces by placing cones and temporary signage, or putting in a temporary ramp.  One solution of the restroom problem, that is relatively easy, and affordable, is for the County to rent ADA accessible PortaPotties, which can be obtained for as little as $150 a unit, for use on Election Day. The County, however,  declines to do so. NBC News reports that county officials asserted that “the county’s position is that it doesn’t have to provide those restrooms at polling places — because the county says it doesn’t have to provide any restrooms, period.”

According to Christina White, the County’s Chief Deputy at the Elections Department:

“There’s no legal requirement for us to provide bathroom access, but we, as a courtesy to our voters, do when there is a bathroom at the polling place,” she said. “That’s not always possible.”Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/10/4051905/for-miami-dade-county-a-dispute.html#storylink=cpy and http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/04/10/3425252/new-rule-prohibits-voters-in-miami-dade-county-from-using-the-restroom-no-matter-how-long-the-line/ 

The obligation not to discriminate on the basis of disability is mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and is enforced by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.  Outraged citizens from across the country have gotten involved – a petition seeking to have the Justice Department investigate Miami Dade’s voter suppression was started on www.DailyKos.com and in the space of four days, has been signed by over 117,000 people. Visit  http://campaigns.dailykos.com/p/dia/action/public/index.sjs?action_KEY=858 and add your voice.



Marc Dubin, Esq., served as a Senior Trial Attorney at the US Department of Justice, in the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division, in Washington, DC, from 1993-2005. In that capacity, he was responsible for nationwide enforcement of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 on behalf of the United States. He serves as Director of Advocacy at the Center for Independent Living of South Florida, serving  Miami Dade County. He may be reached at mdubin@pobox.com or at 305-896-3000 (mobile). Please visit www.soflacil.org and www.ADAadvocacyBlog.org.





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Monday, April 14, 2014

Daily Kos Site Creates Petition to Ask DOJ to Investigate Miami Dades' Suppression Tactics

Sign the petition: Urge the DOJ to investigate new Florida voting rule which closes all restrooms at polling places on Election Day

Remember how bad the voter lines were on Election Day in 2012? In Florida, some stayed in line for over six hours.
And now, they won’t be able to use the bathroom. The Miami-Dade County Elections Department has quietly implemented a policy to close the bathrooms at all polling facilities.
Voters would have to choose between voting, or using the bathroom.
Make no mistake about it. This is a political scheme to depress voter turnout in a heavily Democratic county, and it’s also probably illegal for violating basic disability law.
Sign the petition: Urge U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate this new Florida voting rule which closes all restrooms at polling places on Election Day.
Miami-Dade County’s new rule to close restrooms at polling places will depress voter turnout, considering that we saw voting lines in the last presidential election of over six hours.

It is also probably illegal, as people with disabilities must use the bathroom more frequently.

Please open a federal investigation on the legality of this new Florida rule
http://campaigns.dailykos.com/p/dia/action/public/index.sjs?action_KEY=858




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Friday, April 11, 2014

Update on Miami Dade's Suppression of Voters with Disabilities

April 10, 2014
Background:
The CIL of South Florida, in an effort to ensure that all voters, including voters with disabilities, could access polling places, asked Miami Dade County about the accessibility of polling places, including the restrooms at polling places.

In August of 2013, John Mendez, Deputy Director of the County's Elections Department, wrote that "State statute does not mandate that the restrooms in the polling location be ADA compliant....In order to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not treated unfairly, the use of rest rooms by the voters is not allowed on Election Day."

Shanika Graves, an Assistant County Attorney for Miami Dade County, wrote in an email responding to my inquiry about the County's position concerning the availability of accessible restrooms at polling places, wrote in February of 2014 that: "...The (Elections) Department's policy is not to permit access to restrooms at polling sites on election days...."

I then was asked by the National Commission on Voting Rights to testify at a hearing held in Miami on March 31st, and I informed them of Miami Dade County's secret voter suppression tactic of closing all restrooms to all voters at all polling places, to avoid making restrooms at polling places accessible to voters with disabilities.

News of Miami Dade County's policy of closing all restrooms to all voters, to avoid making restrooms accessible to voters with disabilities, then went national, with articles on Think Progress, Daily Kos, ElectionLine.org, and many others, in addition to a front page article in the Miami Herald, and an article in the Broward Sun Sentinel, as well as interviews on CBS News, Channel 41 Miami (Spanish speaking audience), and a radio interview on ClearChannel in Miami (WIOD 610 am).

Despite the publicity, Miami Dade's Elections Department continues to insist that they will not make restrooms accessible, asserting in an interview with the Miami Herald that "There's no legal requirement for us to provide bathroom access but we do as a courtesy to our voters when there is a bathroom at the polling place. That's not always possible."

It's particularly not possible at most churches and other religious sites, which are commonly used as polling places throughout the United States, because Congress exempted churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious sites from the coverage of the ADA. When a religious site is used as a polling place, however, the County must take the steps necessary to make them temporarily accessible, unless doing so is an undue financial or administrative burden. The County could rent accessible portapotties, or reassign voters with disabilities to polling places with accessible restrooms, or take other measures to be in compliance. But Miami Dade County has not asserted that it cannot come into compliance - rather, it asserts that it has no obligation to do so, and can simply close all restrooms, or assign voters with disabilities to polling places with inaccessible restrooms, regardless of the consequences to voters with disabilities. I disagree.

This is another example of the need for Congress to do something about voter suppression efforts in this country, and a stark example of the need for Congress to address the Supreme Court's decision to invalidate a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that allowed the Justice Department to have oversight of voter suppression tactics.

(See www.soflacil.org and www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/10/4051905/for-miami-dade-county-a-dispute.html, and http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/04/10/3425252/new-rule-prohibits-voters-in-miami-dade-county-from-using-the-restroom-no-matter-how-long-the-line), and http://beachpeanuts.com/2014/04/miami-dade-voters-you-can-vote-or-use-the-restroom-but-not-both.html)







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