An effort is underway to get more Iowans who’re disabled to vote. Rick Shannon is the project director for “Iowans with Disabilities Action”, the group that’s making the effort. Shannon says there are 400-thousand disabled Iowans who’re of voting age. He says a Harris Poll conducted after the 2002 election found only 41-percent of disabled voters cast votes, while the rate for people without disabilities was right at 52-percent. He says in Iowa that means some 200-thousand disabled votes went uncast. Shannon says the disabled often feel their vote doesn’t count. He says state and national research has shown growing feelings of disenfranchisement and powerlessness among people with disabilities combine with other barriers to keep them from voting. Shannon says disabled people have the numbers to have a big voice in the issues, and they’ll try and get that message out in nine regional training forums. He says they’ll be going out and targeting about 70 people per location and educate them about their rights and responsibilities as voters. One of the barriers that keeps disabled voters from voting is a lack of handicapped accessible polling places. There are some 250 polling places in Iowa that have been listed as inaccessible. Deputy Secretary of State Barb Huey says that’s improving with a five percent improvement in the number of handicapped accessible polling places this year compared to two years ago. She says they hope the improvement will continue. She says they’re working on a project that’s pooled all the data on why polling places are accessible and are doing and analysis to help them change. She says a 25-percent change would be a big improvement. Huey says they’re getting money from federal, state and local sources to make the improvements.She says they’re pooling the money and are working to be sure that what happens, happens because the people at the local level want it to happen and it’s not a forced issue. Huey says there will never be 100 percent accessibility, because some small towns only have one place where they can hold elections. She says some of the polling places are deemed inaccessible for things such as not having a paved parking lot.
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