Despite 25% of MI residents being disabled, 84% of Polling Locations in Metro Detroit are NOT accessible
During the 2022 election cycle, Detroit Disability Power–with the support of The Carter Center–audited 261 polling locations across 15 jurisdictions in Southeast Michigan. Polling locations were audited for 4 main criteria:
ID: DDP members pose for a powerful picture holding signs that read Disability Pride
1. An accessible parking area with a clear pathway into the building
3. A fully accessible voter assist terminal (VAT)
2. An accessible entrance into the building
4. An accessible booth for casting paper ballots privately
Our data demonstrates that only 16% of polling locations were fully accessible, having no access barriers or impediments to voting.
Issues and Recommendations
Issue 1) The lack of accessible entrances was the most prevalent impediment for voters with disabilities at the polling places observed. In many instances, the main entrance to the voting site was not immediately apparent. At several sites, the accessible entrance was not the main entry point, and there was no clear signage directing voters with disabilities. At 32 polling sites (14%), entrances had stairs, with no ramps or with ramps that were blocked by parked cars or signage.
Issue 2) Nearly all of the Metro Detroit jurisdictions observed (14 of 15) did not have fully set up, accessible voting booths, making inaccessible voting booths the most widespread issue of the four measures.
Issue 3) Though most polling sites had VATs, many were not in working order. Several VATs displayed error codes, 26 (12%) did not have headphones or the controller plugged in, and one had run out of printing paper, making it unusable.
Issue 4) Most polling places observed had accessible parking and a clear pathway into the voting area. However, in the 40% of polling places where that was not the case, observers noted impediments including cracked, uneven, or impassable sidewalks.
Image Description: Map of MetroDetroit. Blue pins are placed across the map to indicate a polling site that was audited for accessibility during the 2022 election cycle by Detroit Disability Power and The Carter Center. There are 261 blue pins placed across the map. Dots are located in Detroit, the enclaves of Hamtramck and Highland Park, Harper Woods, and the five Grosse Pointe communities to the east, Dearborn to the west, and the Downriver communities of River Rouge and Ecorse to the southwest – all in Wayne County; the Oakland County city of Southfield; and the Macomb County cities of Warren and Center Line, all on Detroit's northern border.
1) Increase coordination between election management jurisdictions and the state.
2) Clearly label pathways and remove any obstructions.
3) Ensure that poll workers receive training on the voter access terminals (VATs).
4) Centralize training to address inconsistencies in Election Day administration that limit access.
"We believe that with a coordinated effort between disabled Metro Detroiters, our elected officials, and other election stakeholders, we can improve this unfortunate reality. People with disabilities deserve and demand an equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process."
Dessa Cosma, Founding Director of DDP
ID: Dessa joins a rally in Detroit to protect our votes
The Report at a Glance
This report only covers data from November 8th 2022, when all the audits were conducted on Election Day. However, this is the third election cycle in a row that DDP conducts similar research, albeit on a smaller scale.
Out of the 267 polling locations across 15 jurisdictions in MetroDetroit, 261 were audited (98% of all polling locations). Of these 15 jurisdictions, 12 had all their polling locations audited. These 15 jurisdictions account for 1 in 10 Michigan voters, or more than 1 million people.
This research was led by Detroit Disability Power with invaluable support and partnership from The Carter Center. The 21 trained volunteers from our community that deployed this audit were also instrumental to success.
The audit was centered on the city of Detroit, the state's single largest jurisdiction, along with other municipalities in the metro area. This region is home to approximately 4.9 million people, nearly half of MI's total population of 10 million.
To cultivate data-driven solutions to chronic and preventable voter access issues and, in partnership with elected officials and other election stakeholders, become a model for accessibility. We can and must meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Voting Rights Act and the Helping America Vote Act, as well as Michigan election law.
Geographically contiguous jurisdictions allowed the audit team to assign volunteers to areas that crossed municipal or county borders when practical. The team used a digital audit form that included questions found in the report in Appendix C (page 25).
This data aligns with previous, smaller-scale audits of a similar kind that DDP has done in previous election cycles. Additionally, data aligns with the 2017 national average of 17% of polling locations being fully accessible, according to the US Government Accountability Office.