Houston Matters

Harris County and Justice Department Battle Over Claims of ADA Non-Compliance at Polling Places

Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department sued Harris County, alleging the county hasn’t taken enough steps to make polling places more accessible to voters with disabilities, citing — among other things — architectural barriers at some locations. The suit seeks a court order to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by the […]

Photo: Michael Hagerty, Houston Public MediaEarlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department sued Harris County, alleging the county hasn’t taken enough steps to make polling places more accessible to voters with disabilities, citing — among other things — architectural barriers at some locations. The suit seeks a court order to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by the November election.

The lawsuit is just the latest move following a now three-years-long investigation by DOJ into Harris County’s alleged non-compliant polling places. Back in 2014, the Justice Department shared the findings of its initial investigations with the county, citing only 29 of 86 polling places were in full compliance with the ADA. Justice also noted at the time that most could be made compliant easily, using quick fixes like portable ramps and with a few polling places being relocated. The County disagreed, and, to date, has refused to cooperate with Justice, arguing the county is, in fact, in compliance with the ADA and has received no complaints about limits to access.

We discuss the lawsuit with Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, and longtime disability activist Lex Frieden, professor at the UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics and the director of the Independent Living Research Utilization program at TIRR Memorial Hermann.

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