`It’s all about equal access to the voter’

`It’s all about equal access to the voter’

Washington’s voter accessibility project, a one-person, federally funded operation dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities, is a whirlwind of activity these days.

Fresh website information has just been launched, including resources, voting rights, and how to request a reasonable accommodation or assistance.  Accessibility Coordinator Tom Allman is busy training and providing technical assistance to county election departments, doing outreach to organizations and affected populations, and making sure polling centers and dropboxes are accessible.

Allman, who has a doctorate in rehabilitation and counseling, a Masters degree in counseling psychology, and a law degree, has 20 years of experience in the field, most recently working with Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle for students with disabilities, and as voting rights expert at the Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center.

Allman is enthused about helping counties, organizations and individuals be successful.  He has a full travel schedule, crisscrossing Washington state and participating in national efforts, including the White House Disability Group.  He has helped counties upgrade their facilities for use by individuals with disabilities. Each county has at least one site with special voting equipment if the person is not able to, or chooses not to, use vote-by-mail paper ballots.

Allman says:

“It’s all about equal access to the voter.  It’s independent and equal access.  I’m here as a resource.”

Secretary of State Sam Reed gives high marks to the new program in the state Elections Division:

“Tom is exceptionally well qualified and is very enthused to help bring Washington state to the next level.  He is already proving to be a tremendous asset. Assisting voters with a variety of disabilities and language barriers has been a longtime passion of mine. Over the past 32 years as Thurston County Auditor and Secretary of State, it has been gratifying to see just how much voting means to individuals with disabilities, and for them to know their community wants them to fully participate to the maximum extent they are able.”

The project is financed by a grant from the federal Help America Vote Act, Section 261, which deals with election assistance for individuals with disabilities.  The grant was recommended to Secretary Reed by the HAVA Grant Advisory Board.

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