By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania
On February 6, at a National Commission on Voting Rights (NCVR) public hearing organized by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, voters, activists, and voting rights advocates gathered at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to share their experiences of the voting challenges they continue to face in Pennsylvania. The ACLU of Pennsylvania was an organizing partner for the event, and I had the privilege to attend and take pictures of the proceedings. Like many in attendance I was blown away by the impassioned testimony given by both the invited guests and audience members who braved the elements to voice their concerns. I was equal parts disappointed by the lack of local media, which should have come out in full force to attended such an event.
In my opinion, the most compelling testimony of the evening came from members of the deaf community who showed up in numbers to make their voices heard. We often speak of the need for translators at polling placing for the Hispanic and Asian community, but rarely do we consider the needs to deaf and blind voters.
“When a deaf person comes in to vote, how are they going to be helped,?” said Samuel Hawk, a deaf voter who signed while an ASL translator spoke. “There has to be an ASL interpreter inside polling places, and now there’s no one there.”
Hawk was one of several deaf and hard of hearing voters who testified during the public testimony period. Challenges facing persons with disabilities was among a diverse range of voting rights and election administration issues addressed by expert witness panels and general public witnesses representing civic engagement groups, government watchdogs, student and labor union representatives and civil rights organizations including advocates from the African-American, Asian-American and Latino community.
Check out my full slideshow of the event below and for more information, visit the Lawyers’ Committee’s website.
More information on the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s voter ID challenge can be found here.