Local officials are encouraging voter participation among individuals with disabilities or those in need of assistance, by working to ensure that all community members’ voices are heard.

The “Accessible Voting For All” class was held at the Livingston Educational Service Agency last Tuesday, with about 45 people in attendance. The session was presented by the Abilities Alliance; a workgroup under the Livingston County Human Services Collaborative Body that aims to increase understanding, reduce stigma and provide opportunities to youth and adults by addressing challenges that may exist in the community. One area group leaders targeted was voting, as a lack of knowledge among voters or poll workers can make the voting experience difficult.

Anne Richardson, Director of the Arc Livingston, says she was glad to learn that many of the participants in the class were already registered to vote and some had already done so in the August primary election. Richardson says the class discussed issues like how to use voting equipment, the process, citizens’ rights, what to expect, and why it’s important to vote. Richardson says when she asked the group why they thought it was important, she was impressed to learn that they already knew the answer: in order to pick officials you feel will best represent you and your needs.

Abilities Alliance member Mark Hymes feels the class will go a long way in promoting voter participation. Hymes says he’s heard from other organizations and individuals that the voting experience can be problematic due to a lack of knowledge. Hymes felt the class was important to support residents’ civic duty, adding that “the more knowledgeable people are about it, the more apt they are to use it.” He also feels learning how to use the equipment is very easy, noting features that include voting options being read aloud and a user-friendly controller for the selection process.

The state’s new voting equipment was implemented last year in the November election. County Clerk Betsy Hundley says one of her passions is helping those with disabilities and in need of voting assistance learn about the process to become participants. (DK)