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Elections Officials Agree To Make Polling Places Accessible To Disabled

By Heather Cherone | April 20, 2017 12:38pm | Updated on April 20, 2017 1:25pm
 A resident casts a vote at a 49th Ward polling place Tuesday.
A resident casts a vote at a 49th Ward polling place Tuesday.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

CHICAGO — Chicago elections officials have agreed to make sure all polling places will be accessible to the blind or those who use wheelchairs in time for the November 2018 elections, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois announced Thursday.

Approximately 100 Chicago polling places used during the 2016 presidential election had architectural barriers that made them "inaccessible to voters who use wheelchairs or have mobility impairments, or voters who are blind or have vision impairments," according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office.

"The right of individuals to participate in our democratic system of government includes full and equal access to polling sites," said Acting U.S. Attorney Joel Levin. "This agreement represents an important step toward guaranteeing voting access to all of our citizens."

In all, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners oversaw 1,452 polling sites that housed 2,069 precincts, and also operated 50 additional sites for early voting in the 40 days leading up to the election.

"In response to the department’s initial findings, the board expressed its commitment to making all polling locations accessible to voters with disabilities," according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Hundreds of polling sites will need some forms of permanent or temporary modifications or to be re-located to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a statement from the Board of Commissioners.

Chairwoman Marisel Hernandez said the board recruited hundreds of attorneys to volunteer to evaluate Chicago's polling places for accessibility.

The agreement requires Chicago elections officials to review polling sites and determine whether alternative locations should be used, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

The agreement was reached without the filing of a lawsuit by federal officials, although one could be filed if Chicago elections officials fail to comply with the terms of the agreement.