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NC advocates working to make voting accessible for people with disabilities

Voters with disabilities still run into barriers at the polls, but one North Carolina group hopes fix that.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As North Carolina gears up for the November election, advocates are working to make sure voting is accessible for everyone.

Casting a ballot is supposed to be a smooth, easy process. However, for some, it can be quite the opposite. 

"That was a very horrible experience for me,” Cherine Bentley said about voting in 2020. 

Bentley has cerebral palsy and votes curbside. When she pulled up to her precinct in the last election, she said a poll worker questioned whether she had a disability. Then Bentley said, the volunteer made a comment that she was "too pretty to have a disability."

"I was so blown away,” Bentley recalled. 

She added that incidents like these and barriers at the polls happen more often than many realize. 

"A lot of times, people with disabilities feel discouraged, so they just won't vote,” Bentley said.

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Disability Rights North Carolina is working to change that issue. The organization won a lawsuit in July 2022, challenging a North Carolina law that only allows a guardian or family member to help someone fill out an absentee ballot. 

“The change is that the Federal Court has said that the state can't apply those rules to people with disabilities who need assistance,” Lisa Graftstein with DRNC explained.

Graftstein said they also won a lawsuit that makes voting more accessible for North Carolinians who are blind. 

“The judge imposed a requirement that the state give people who are blind or low-vision access to the same online voting portal that people who are in the military or overseas are able to use to vote," Graftstein said.

This November, DRNC said it’s monitoring curbside voting and testing physical accessibility at polls across North Carolina. It also has audible voter guides and offers help for people that think their voting rights may have been violated. 

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As for Bentley, she’s not letting a bad experience discourage her from casting a ballot this November. 

"It makes me want to push even harder and have a voice for those who are not as vocal as I am," she said.

If a Charlotte voter that has a disability has an issue at the polls, they can also contact Disability Rights and Resources.


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