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Disability Commission focus on voting issues

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  Researchers at Rutgers University estimate there are 17.7 million voters with disabilities, and they warn that candidates running for office who ignore the disabled community do so at their own peril. Still, members of the Revere Commission on Disabilities say it hasn’t always been easy to cast a ballot.

  This week, Election Commissioner Paul Fahey joined the Disabilities Commission to talk about elections. Fahey said voting by mail is an option for all Massachusetts voters. Applications for mail in ballots can be requested online at MailmyballotMA.com or through a local election office.

  Voters who are unable to independently mark a standard paper ballot can now request accessible electronic voting accommodations. To use the Accessible Vote by Mail system, voters need to apply through a local election office or through the online mail-in ballot portal on the website for secretary of state. But for those who would rather vote the old-fashioned way, in person at the polls, every precinct is required to have at least one autoMARK voting terminal that uses audio cues and magnifiers to assist visually impaired voters.

  According to Commission member Mario Grimanis, poll workers don’t know how to work the equipment. AutoMARK terminals are seldom used, so poll workers don’t know it. “It’s more the discouragement,” said Grimanis. “A lack of respect or understanding is part of the problem. I’ve seen people in wheelchairs get disrespected. It’s just the truth, I’ve watched it.”

  Fahey said a starting point for the election department is to make sure autoMARK machines are set up and ready to go.

  “I have no doubt you’ve experienced the discrimination you’re describing,” Fahey told Grimanis. “We’re hoping with more training people will better understand the role of poll workers.”

  Fahey is also hoping he can recruit a more diverse group of people to work at the polls that will be a more accurate reflection of Revere’s voting population. He asked commission members to consider the job and to tell friends and acquaintances the city is hiring.

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