I was texting with my friend, who happens to have autism. I asked her about the upcoming election for president. I asked, “Who are you going to vote for?” She answered, “I already sent in my absentee ballot. The last time I went to vote, it was sensory hell.” She had a tough time at the polling place in her town. She went on to tell me that the workers acted like she was stupid. She had trouble with the bright lights, noises and long lines. She wasn’t sure what line to get in. She got nervous. When she gets nervous, she talks loud and doesn’t even know it. Her story made me wonder if there was an easier way to vote if you have autism.
What is the law for polling place access for people with disabilities?
In 2002, the Feds signed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) . Many voting places were tough to figure out if you had a disability. Two mandates were decided on:
1. Accessibility costs money. So a grant program was created to give money to towns and cities so they could upgrade their polling places.
2. Every polling place in the United States was to have at least one voting machine that was private.
Pretty simple. But not so easy in reality. How could someone with autism have a shot at voting in person? A simple checklist could help. And make sure you are registered to vote! You can’t show up the day of the election. You must register ahead of time. Call your city or town hall for instructions.
Simple steps to make voting in person easier
1. Plan your visit. Call your town hall or city hall. Ask if you can stop by the night before the election. The voting booths should be set up. Find out the best time to vote. Ask what time of day has the shortest lines.
2. Ask about the private voting booth. Where is it located? Does your polling place even have one? If not, find a booth at the end of an aisle so you have some privacy.
3. Pack a “sensory” kit – bring a koosh toy, gum, or stress ball. Wear ear plugs. Use whatever will work to reduce your stress. If you get stuck in a long line, you’ll be glad you have something else to focus on.4. Get the name of the person who can help you on voting day. Can this person check you in?
5. Bring a picture ID! You may have to prove who you are.
6. Get a sample ballot ahead of time, if you can. Know who you are voting for before you show up. Know what issues are on the ballot.
7. Know what to do after you vote. Ask about where you turn in your ballot and where you check out.
8. Bring a friend or family member. He or she can help you if you get confused or feel like you are going to have a panic attack.
Keep calm and vote on!
 H. R. 3295—33 PART 2—PAYMENTS TO STATES AND UNITS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO ASSURE ACCESS FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES