Voting Rights in South Carolina
Every vote counts!
Unfortunately, this key belief of Americans has not always been true for citizens with disabilities. Many individuals with disabilities have not had access to their polling places or to secret ballots.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Title II of the ADA requires public entities, such as election commissions, to ensure people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to vote. This mandate applies to all areas of the voting process, including voter registration, polling places, voting machines, absentee ballots, and all other areas of the voting system.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA)
This act ensures a voter who is blind or has a disability can receive assistance when requested. It also prohibits voter tests to ensure mental competency.
The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (VAEHA)
VAEHA requires all polling places be accessible during federal elections.
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA)
HAVA ensures there must be at least one accessible voting system at each polling location in federal elections, this rule is extended to state and local elections via the ADA. P&A is part of the effort to enforce HAVA through its Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) program. PAVA’s purpose is to ensure full participation in all parts of the electoral process for individuals with disabilities–registering to vote, accessing polling places and casting a vote. These requirements are in addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which require state and local governments to provide accessible programs and facilities, such as accessible polling places, voting systems, and voter registration sites.
HAVA provides funds to each state’s Protection and Advocacy system to enable voters with disabilities to advocate for equal access to the electoral process. Disability Rights South Carolina will use PAVA funds to:
- Educate voters and persons involved in the electoral process about the rights of citizens with disabilities;
- Provide people with disabilities with information about voter registration and the chance to register to vote;
- Work with groups representing individuals with disabilities and other civic organizations in registering voters. As a nonprofit corporation, Disability Rights South Carolina will not advocate for any candidate or ballot issue.
- Educate State and County election administrators on how to increase accessibility of elections for people with disabilities;
- Represent individuals who have administrative complaints about the electoral process, although the law prohibits Disability Rights South Carolina using HAVA funds for litigation; and
- Provide advice about access to polling places on Election Day
In addition, South Carolina has multiple state laws that protect the rights of voters with disabilities.
- Voters who cannot enter the polling place or stand in line due to disability or age may vote from their vehicle in a designated area commonly known as “Curbside Voting”
- People with disabilities have the right to vote by absentee ballot.
- People with disabilities may execute forms by mark rather than signature.
This publication provides legal information, but is not intended to be legal advice. As the law may change, please contact Disability Rights South Carolina for updates. Please let us know if you would like this information in an alternative format.
Last updated: 2020