Luján, Klobuchar, Blunt Spearhead Senate Passage of Legislation to Improve Ballot Access for Voters with Disabilities, As Gallego, O’Halleran, Sablan Reintroduce in House

Washington, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) led the Senate’s passage of the PAVA Program Inclusion Act to ensure all voters with disabilities, regardless of geographic location, can fully participate in the electoral process. The bill allows two voter Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&As) to access Help America Vote Act Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) funds on par with the other 55 P&As nationwide. This will enable these two P&As to better serve Native American and Northern Mariana Islands voters with disabilities. Today, U.S. Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) reintroduced this bipartisan legislation in the House.

“I am proud to join my colleagues to ensure broad access to the ballot box for voters with disabilities,” said Luján. “Voters with disabilities, no matter where they live, should be able participate in our elections and make their voices heard. Voters with disabilities in New Mexico’s rural areas and in Native American communities have had to overcome too many obstacles just to vote. I’m pleased the bipartisan PAVA Program Inclusion Act takes steps to provide voting assistance services, so that all Americans can fully exercise their right to vote.”

“Our democracy works best when all citizens can participate in elections, but too many Americans still face obstacles in casting their ballot,” said Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that all Americans with disabilities, including Native Americans and Americans living in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, have access to voting assistance services. I’ll keep fighting to make sure all voters can have their voices heard at the ballot box.”

“As a state election official for 20 years, I’m committed to making sure every eligible voter who chooses to cast a ballot is able to do so,” said Blunt. “This bill will expand accessibility services to more people and protect their right to be a part of the democratic process. The unanimous support this bill received in the Senate underscores our strong, bipartisan commitment to ensuring fair and accessible elections.”

“Our country is at its best when we’re expanding access to the ballot, not restricting it,” said Smith. “This bipartisan legislation will help ensure everyone’s voice is heard – particularly Native Americans and those with disabilities – who too often face disproportionate barriers to the ballot.”

“Voters with disabilities are no less entitled to exercising their right to participate in our democracy than any other American,” said Gallego. “No matter where they live, disabled Americans should be able to get to the polls and make their voice heard. That is why I am proud to reintroduce the PAVA Inclusion Act to ensure that voters with disabilities residing in some of the most rural parts of Indian Country in Arizona especially have equal access the ballot. When I originally introduced this legislation, I said this legislative fix is long overdue. That’s even more true today, and I look forward to it finally becoming law.”

“Our democracy is stronger when all our voices are heard, but far too many Americans with disabilities—especially those living in rural and tribal areas—encounter barriers when accessing the ballot box,” said O’Halleran. “As the representative for the congressional district with the largest population of Native Americans, who, more often than not, travel long distances to reach a voting location, I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important bill that ensures voters with disabilities have their voices heard.” 

“The Native American Disability Law Center has the potential to unlock access to the ballot for so many Native Americans with disabilities in New Mexico. Our legislation takes a critical step towards expanding on the Center’s important work by making sure that the federal government provides it with the necessary funding. Its mission towards more inclusive voting access will help keep our democracy strong. I’m grateful for Rep. Gallego’s leadership on this legislation,” said Leger Fernández.

“The right to vote is a fundamental right of all Americans, no matter where they live,” said Sablan. “By extending the Protection and Advocacy for Voter Access program to the Northern Mariana Islands and the Native American communities in the Four Corners region, the PAVA Inclusion Act ensures all Americans with disabilities have the support and assistance they need to exercise their fundamental right to vote and participate in our democracy.”

Enacted as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, PAVA program funds increased access to the polls for voters with disabilities by facilitating disability training for poll workers, maintaining voting hotlines, and examining polling places for accessibility. However, the original legislation erroneously left out funding for P&A programs serving the Northern Mariana Islands and the four corners area of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah, made up mostly of Tribal lands. The P&A located in the four corners region, the Native American Disability Law Center, also provides support services to the other 56 P&As across the country to ensure all P&As best serve Native Americans with disabilities. The PAVA Program Inclusion Act fixes this oversight and will improves access to the ballot for voters with disabilities in the Northern Mariana Islands as well as for Native American voters.

“Native Americans with disabilities face many barriers to accessing polls and exercising their right to vote,” said Therese Yanan, Executive Director of the Native American Disability Law Center. “This legislation will help remove those barriers and make equal access to voting a reality for Native Americans with disabilities. We appreciate Senator Luján’s, Chair Klobuchar’s, Ranking Member Blunt’s, and Representative Gallego’s efforts to ensure that all people can freely exercise their right to vote.”

“The Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc. (NMPASI), the designated P&A for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), would like to thank Senator Luján, Chair Klobuchar, Ranking Member Blunt and Representative Gallego for their efforts to include the Northern Marianas in PAVA program funding,” said Gregory Borja, Executive Director of the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems Inc. “While we have not been eligible for this funding in the past 20 years, we have made our own efforts to insure that people with disabilities in the CNMI have equal access to voting in our local elections. Access to PAVA program funding would allow our P&A to better advocate for voters with disabilities in the Northern Mariana Islands, and  we thank Senators Lujan, Chair Klobuchar, Ranking Member Blunt, and Representative Gallego for passing and reintroducing this legislation.”

“The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) applauds Senator Lujan, Ranking Member Blunt, and Chairwoman Klobuchar, along with Senator Heinrich and Senator Smith, for the passage of this legislation and Representative Gallego for its reintroduction. We are grateful for this long overdue technical fix, which will expand PAVA program funding to the only two P&As excluded from the program since 2002. It was always the intent for all 57 P&As to receive this funding to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to participate in the voting process. With the passage and reintroduction of this legislation we are one step closer to safeguarding the right to vote for all Americans, including Native Americans with disabilities in the Four Corners region and Pacific Islanders with disabilities in Northern Mariana Islands,” said National Disability Rights Network Executive Director Curt Decker.

Original cosponsors of the legislation include: Representatives Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-C.N.M.I.), John Curtis (R-Utah), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.), and Senators Tina Smith (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

Endorsers (58): National Disability Rights Center, Native American Disability Law Center, The Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc., Disability Law Center of Alaska, Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities of America Samoa, Arizona Center for Disability Law, Disability Rights California, Center for Legal Advocacy d/b/a Disability Law Colorado, Disability Rights Connecticut, Universal Legal Services/Disability Rights D.C., Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. of Delaware, Disability Rights Florida, Georgia Advocacy Office, Guam Legal Services Corporation-Disability Law Center, Hawaii Disability Rights Center, Disability Rights Iowa, Disability Rights Idaho, Equip for Equality of Illinois, Indiana Disability Rights/Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services, Disability Rights Center of Kansas, Kentucky Protection and Advocacy, Advocacy Center of Louisiana, Disability Law Center of Massachusetts, Disability Rights Maryland, Disability Rights Maine, Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service Inc., Minnesota Disability Law Center, Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services, Disability Rights Mississippi, Disability Rights Montana, Disability Rights North Carolina, North Dakota Protection and Advocacy Project, Disability Rights Nebraska, Disability Rights of New Hampshire, Disability Rights New Jersey, Disability Rights New Mexico, Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center, Disability Rights New York, Disability Rights Ohio, Oklahoma Disability Law Center Inc., Disability Rights Oregon, Disability Rights Pennsylvania, Executive Office of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Disability Rights Rhode Island, Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities Inc. of South Carolina, Disability Rights South Dakota d/b/a South Dakota Advocacy Services, Disability Rights Tennessee, Disability Rights Texas, Disability Law Center of Utah, Disability Law Center of Virginia, Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands, Disability Rights Vermont, Disability Rights Washington, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Disability Rights of West Virginia, and Wyoming Protection and Advocacy System, Inc.



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