(April 23, 2013) NCD Policy Forum: “The Help America Vote Act Ten Years Later: Has the Law Accomplished Its Aim?”


“The Help America Vote Act Ten Years Later:
Has the Law Accomplished Its Aim?”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2:00 - 4:30 PM

Dirksen Senate 608


On Tuesday, April 23, 2013, the National Council on Disability (NCD), utilizing its statutory authority to receive testimony (Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 780 et seq.)), will convene a policy forum on Capitol Hill on the topic of voting access for people with disabilities. In anticipation of the forthcoming NCD report on voting access, the forum will focus on the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the state of voting accessibility today. Through the invited testimony of Members of Congress, representatives from federal agencies and the Administration, and the civil rights disability communities, as well as the questions asked of the witnesses by the NCD Council Members, the forum will explore what HAVA was intended to do, what it has accomplished, what work remains, and what policy measures would assist in addressing the persistent barriers experienced by people with disabilities when attempting to exercise their fundamental and cherished right to vote.


(this list will be updated as confirmations are received)

Panel I: History of HAVA -- 

  • Mark Richert, Director of Public Policy, American Foundation for the Blind
  • Lee Perselay, Disability Counsel, Senator Tom Harkin
  • Chai Feldblum, Commissioner, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (DOC)

Congressional Intent of HAVA 

  • The  Honorable Christopher Dodd, former U.S. Senator (D-CT), 1981-2011 (DOC)

Panel II: Assessing HAVA's Impact

  • Barbara Bovbjerg, Managing Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security, Government Accountability Office (DOC) (TEXT)
  • Sharon Lewis, Acting Principal Deputy Adminisrtator, Administration for Community Living, and Commissioner, Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Adminisrtation for Community Living (DOC)

Panel III: Consumer Perspectives

  • Lou Ann Blake, Director of Outreach, Jernigan Institute, National Federation of the Blind (DOC)
  • Denise McQuade, Board Member, United Spinal Association (DOC)
  • Kathy Hoell, Executive Director of the Nebraska Statewide Independent Living Council (NESILC) (DOC)
  • Nancy Ward, Co-Director of the National Technical Assistance Center for Voting and Cognitive Access (NTAC) (DOC)

Written Congressional Testimony

  • The Honorable Steny Hoyer, Democratic Whip, U.S. House of Representatives (DOC) (HTML)


This event is open to the public, and all interested parties are encouraged to attend. The event will be held in Dirksen Senate 608. Please schedule an additional 30 minutes for long lines at security and to get settled into the room before the event starts.

Those unable to join in person can follow the proceedings live on Twitter using the hashtag #NCDVote.


CART and interpreters will be provided. If additional accommodations are requested, please contact Anne Sommers at NCD as soon as possible at asommers@ncd.gov. The location of accessible entrances for the Dirksen Senate Office Building is at the corner of First Street, NE, and C Street, NE.


NCD will hold open its record for written testimony from advocacy organizations and other interested members of the public for a period of two weeks following the event. Written testimony should be limited to five pages, double-spaced, and should include name, organizational affiliation, and contact information. All written testimony should be sent to Anne Sommers at asommers@ncd.gov no later than close of business, May 7, 2013.


Following the many logistical problems experienced during 2000 election, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). The law was intended to reform problematic aspects of the voting process, including address barriers to voting for people with disabilities. In 2008, Cornell University estimated there were 32.6 million people with disabilities eligible to vote in that year’s elections, based upon data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. And yet, despite that large number, the Government Accountability Office reported that only 27% of polling places were free of accessibility barriers during the 2008 election, confounding many individuals’ abilities to fully participate in the electoral process.

In 2012, NCD commissioned a study of issues pertaining to voter access for people with disabilities, including an open-ended questionnaire, designed to be completed following individuals’ votes in the November 2012 general election. Over 900 individuals responded, providing information about their experiences, including a number of different types of barriers they encountered when attempting to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Full participation in the electoral process for people with disabilities includes considerations of the registration process, accessing the polls, and casting a private ballot, and many barriers persist, as evidenced by the findings of NCD’s forthcoming policy report on the topic. Particularly in view of the bipartisan interest and support in voting reform efforts following long lines and other frustrations during the 2012 general election, this congressional forum is designed to revisit the congressional intent of HAVA, discuss HAVA’s return on investment vis-à-vis access to voting for people with disabilities, and discuss how current legislative proposals tied to voting reform could be used to help address the access needs of people with disabilities in exercising their right to vote privately and independently.


Chai Feldblum HAVA testimony

National Council on Disability • 1331 F Street, NW, Suite 850 • Washington, DC 20004