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LA County Brings Voting To Those Who Lack Mobility

Richard Hernandez used the new voting machines at the Disabled Resources Center in Long Beach, California, where he works as an advocate. He said the machines were user-friendly and accommodated his wheelchair. (Anna Almendrala/California Healthline)
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Los Angeles County is bringing new voting machines to groups of people with historically low voter turnout. The plan is to rotate among 41 different locations, including nonprofit organizations, jails and adult day care centers, in order to reach populations with historically low turnout: people with disabilities, the incarcerated, the homeless, older adults.

While national turnout among all voters went up in the 2018 midterm elections, voters with disabilities voted at a rate that was 4.7% lower than voters without disabilities, according to a national analysis from Rutgers University researchers Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse. That gap represents about 2.35 million fewer voters with disabilities.

The customizable touch screens allow voters to read a ballot in 13 languages, adjust the screen contrast and text size, and more. The machines were helpful to Richard Hernandez, 46, who has been unable to walk or stand since a car accident damaged his spinal cord 26 years ago. Hernandez is legislative advocate of the Disabled Resources Center in Long Beach, which hosted two of the machines on Monday:

“The machines are really user-friendly, and they're low enough for the wheelchair. I was able to go up to the machine and vote for who I wanted to vote, with no assistance whatsoever."

Some election experts are raising the possibility that these efforts may merely shift where and how people are voting — instead of increasing voter turnout. But at one location, at least — AltaMed center in Chinatown — the mobile voting machines drew both new and repeat voters.
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