DOJ Orders Local GOP Officials To Protect Voting Rights

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The Justice Department has announced an agreement with local election officials in Jefferson County, Kentucky, providing for an increase in accessibility for disabled voters at the county’s in-person polling places. Previously, these local officials failed to take sufficient steps to accommodate disabled voters.

The agreement is between the Justice Department and the Board of Elections in Jefferson County, and it relates to requirements contained in the piece of federal law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Issues identified in the course of the Justice Department’s examination of Jefferson County polling places included “inaccessible parking, ramps that were too steep, walkways that had steep cross slopes or had gaps and bumps and voting machines that could not be accessed by voters with mobility disabilities,” a department press release explains. Among other issues, disabled voters also lacked necessary privacy at in-person polling places in the county. These issues weren’t necessarily present at every Jefferson County polling place, but they were seen at an evidently substantial portion.

“Under the ADA, state and local governmental entities that conduct elections may not select polling places that are inaccessible to individuals with disabilities for use during elections, and they must make reasonable modifications to ensure that voters with disabilities have equal opportunity to participate in voting programs,” the department adds. In other words, it sounds as though the county board was in violation of the first component of those requirements and — before this agreement — also violating the second part. “Under the terms of the agreement, the Jefferson County Board will immediately begin remediating its voting program,” the Justice Department specifies. Physical modifications — like portable ramps — at in-person polling places and new training for county election workers will be parts of the remedial efforts in the county, alongside other elements.

“Voting is the bedrock of our democracy, and all voters, including those with disabilities, should have an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process. The Justice Department will continue to use every tool at our disposal, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, to protect the rights of all Americans to vote,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division stated. The Jefferson board is currently split between Republicans and Democrats; the current chairperson is the Republican county clerk. The agreement with Jefferson County, Kentucky, is evidently part of a nationwide initiative by the Justice Department to protect access at polling places for voters with disabilities.

As part of that initiative, the department has secured improvements in polling place accessibility in over 50 jurisdictions, from Texas to Pennsylvania. Jefferson County is the largest county by population in the state of Kentucky; the county’s area is entirely taken up by the city of Louisville. Over three-quarters of a million people live there. The overall entity evidently governing local affairs is known as the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government following a merger involving the city and county in the early 2000s. The sorts of issues that the Justice Department addressed in its agreement with Jefferson County authorities are some of the key issues facing U.S. voters — rather than the imaginary election fraud concerns so often pointed to by Trump and his goons. Numerous ostensible election integrity measures pushed by Republicans since the 2020 elections don’t respond to real-world problems.