USA Orders Harris County to Fix Polling Places

     HOUSTON (CN) — The Department of Justice sued Texas’ most populous county Thursday for violating the American with Disabilities Act by failing to provide polling places for disabled citizens.
     Harris County polling places have architectural barriers such as steep ramps and narrow doors that make it difficult for disabled people to vote, the United States says in the federal complaint.
     Harris County, whose seat is Houston, recorded about 1.1 million votes in the 2012 presidential election, according to the Texas secretary of state.
     The county has about 775 Election Day polling places and 39 early voting sites.
     “Voters with disabilities assigned to inaccessible polling places are being harmed in that they are being denied the same opportunities as nondisabled voters to vote in person during early voting and on Election Day, and to participate equally in the electoral process,” the complaint states.
     With a population of more than 4.5 million, Harris County is the third most populous county in the United States, behind Los Angeles and Cook.
     “Many voters with disabilities in Harris County lack equal access to this basic and most fundamental right,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
     The violations were found in an investigation of polling places during May’s special election for a state legislative seat.
     The Justice Department wants the polling places made accessible within 30 days.
     There are 94 days left until the November election.

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