© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Disability rights advocate breaks down legal protections for voters with disabilities

Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition Logo
Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition logo.

There have been numerous lawsuits in Wisconsin that have put the concerns of voters with disabilities front and center.

>> Guidelines OK'd as Wisconsin voters with disabilities arrange assistance to vote absentee

>> Judge: Disabled Wisconsin voters can receive help voting

Barbara Beckert is the Director of External Advocacy at Disability Rights Wisconsin, which is private non-profit organization that protects the rights of people with disabilities statewide.

The Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition (WDVC) is a project of Disability Rights Wisconsin and Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities.

The non-partisan project aims to help ensure full participation in the entire electoral process of voters with disabilities.

They provide information, resources, like rides to the polls, and more for voters with disabilities through their Voter Toolkit.

Curbside voting assistance sign at Wauwatosa City Hall.
Chuck Quirmbach
Chuck Quirmbach
Curbside voting assistance sign at Wauwatosa City Hall.

There are legal protections for voters with disabilities. Here are some of the most widely used accommodations:

  • Curbside voting is required by state statute for any voter who cannot enter the polling place due to disability. Contact your clerk in advance to ask how to access curbside voting.  
  • If a voter needs help marking the ballot, they may have a person of their choice assist them. That person does not need to be qualified to vote. The voter may bring someone with them or request assistance from a poll worker. The assister cannot be the voter’s employer or union representative.
  • If a voter inside the polling location cannot sign the poll list due to a physical disability, they should inform a poll worker. The poll worker will write “Exempt by order of inspectors” in the signature space on the poll list.
  • All polling places must have accessible voting equipment set up and turned on. This equipment allows voters to independently and privately mark the ballot. It should be set up to allow voters who use a wheelchair to reach the controls and have an audio ballot-marking option for voters with a visual disability. Any voter may use this equipment.  
  • The poll worker may ask voters to speak their name and address. If a voter is unable to state their name and address, Wisconsin law allows voters to have poll workers or assister of their choosing state their name and address on their behalf prior to receiving a ballot. Voters can also provide their information in writing to poll workers or assisters.
  • Other reasonable accommodations can be requested. Speak to the chief inspector at your polling place.

Voters may report concerns to the Chief Election Inspector at the polling place or to the Municipal Clerk. Concerns can also be reported to the Wisconsin Elections Commission at https://elections.wi.gov/form/report-an-accessibility-concern or (608) 261-2028.

More Information and Resources

The Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition has a Know Your Voting Rights fact sheet, which is also available in Spanish.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission outlines how to curbside vote for voters with disabilities.

Disability Rights Wisconsin indicates how to return an absentee ballot for voters with disabilities.

Rafael Muñoz-Echavarria was WUWM's community engagement coordinator 2022-2023.
Related Content