District of Columbia Resources for Voters with Disabilities

What are my rights as a voter with a disability in D.C.?

In D.C., you have the right to the following as protected by federal law. Election staff must be trained on and respect these rights:

  • Accessible voter registration
  • Accessible polling places 
  • Policies and procedures that do not discriminate against you based on your disability
  • Accessible, available, and operational voting systems, features
  • Your service animal to accompany you inside the polling place
  • The right to vote privately and independently or with assistance, if needed
  • Assistance from a person of your choice, who can be a friend, family member, or poll worker (but not your boss, union agent or someone who has authority over you at work)
Who can register to vote in D.C.?

To register to vote in D.C., you must be: 

  • A citizen of the United States of America
  • At least 17 and will be turning 18 on or before Election Day 
  • A resident for at least 30 days prior to the election

If you are a student, unhoused, a survivor of intimate partner violence with related concerns, or living with a mental or physical impairment, you may still register and vote. You never lose the right to vote in D.C. if you have a felony or misdemeanor conviction, even while incarcerated.

In D.C., you may not register or vote if you:

  • Have been declared legally incompetent to vote by a court order
  • You claim the right to vote elsewhere

Register to vote now if you are eligible!

What are my rights when registering to vote in D.C.?

Federal law requires assistance in registering to vote from offices that provide public assistance or state-funded programs serving people with disabilities. Responsibilities of these offices include:

  • Providing voter registration forms
  • Assisting voters in completing the forms
  • Transmitting completed forms to the appropriate election official

All aspects of voter registration must be accessible 

What are the different ways to vote in D.C.?
  • Early Voting
  • In person on Election Day
  • Curbside voting may be arranged at any Vote Center location
  • Absentee
    • By mail, using a regular ballot or an Accessible Remote Ballot (ARB)
  • While abroad as a citizen or military through an absentee ballot request
What are the ways to request an Absentee Ballot in D.C.?
  • Mail-in ballots are sent to all registered voters ahead of elections.
  • An Accessible Remote Ballot (A.R.B.) may also be requested if you need a ballot marking system compatible with assistive devices such as screen readers, tactile switches, closed captioning, and audio-enabled systems.

Request an absentee ballot now, or contact your local election official to find out how to get an accessible ballot.
 

How is the D.C. mail-in or absentee ballot process made accessible for voters with print disabilities?

D.C. provides eligible voters with an Accessible Remote Ballot (ARB), this is an electronic ballot marking system that is compatible with many assistive devices, including all major screen readers, tactile switches, closed captioning, and audio-enabled systems. 

To receive an Accessible Remote Ballot, fill out the Accessible Remote Ballot Application and email it to ogc@dcboe.org. Once your application is processed, you will receive an email, to the email address you provided, that contains login information for the portal.

You must print your voted ballot and return it to the Board by mail, or at any Mail Ballot Drop Box or Vote Center location, your ballot can not be returned through email.

For more assistance or information, please contact your local election official.

What accommodations are available for voters with disabilities at polling locations in D.C.?

Federal law requires polling places to meet minimum compliance standards for individuals with special needs.

  • The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (VAEHA) requires accessible polling places in federal elections for elderly individuals and people with disabilities. Where no accessible location is available to serve as a polling place, voters must be provided an alternate means of voting in person on Election Day.
     
  • The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires at least one accessible voting system for persons with disabilities at each polling place in federal elections.  The accessible voting system must provide the same opportunity for access and participation, including privacy and independence, that other voters receive. 

If you want to check that your polling location meets these standards or find an alternative polling location, contact your Local Elections Official.

If you are unable to stand in line, you can:

  • Request to be moved to the front of the line or refuse to be moved to the front of the line
  • Request that a chair be provided or refuse to accept a chair
  • Request to have your place in line held and notified when it is your turn
What are the rules of assistance for disabled voters in D.C.?

You may have assistance during any stage of the electoral process.

  • You may have a person of your choice provide assistance to you as long as that person is not a candidate, your employer, agent of your employer, or agent of your union.
  • You may request assistance from an election worker at any voting location.
  • The person you choose can help you in completing forms, reading voting materials, and go into the voting booth with you to assist you in casting your ballot.
  • A poll worker cannot coerce you into accepting assistance.
How can I prepare to use accessible voting equipment prior to Election Day?

D.C. uses ExpressVote machines. These machines allow voters to:

  • Use either a touchscreen or movable keypad.
  • Adjust the display contrast and text size.
  • Use a key pad printed with both text and Braille labels.
  • Use headphones to hear instructions and options for each contest.
  • Make selections using the touchscreen, keypad, two-position switch, or sip/puff device.
  • Adjust the volume and tempo of the audio when using headphones.
  • See and/or hear all instructions and options in Spanish.

For more information or assistance, please contact your local election official.

Who do I contact if I have problems when voting in D.C.?

You can contact the ADA Coordinator at ogc@dcboe.org or call (202) 727-5411 / 711 (TTY) for assistance.

You can also fill out a Violation of Civil Rights Complaint Form and submit it to the US Department of Justice by one of the following methods:

  • Online, through the form’s submission process - this is the fastest method.
  • By fax at (202) 616-9881. You MUST include “ATTN: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Complaints" at the top of your fax submission for it to be processed correctly.
  • By mailing your form to: 

                 U.S. Department of Justice
                 Office of the Inspector General Investigations Division
                 ATTN: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Complaints
                 950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
                 Washington, DC 20530

For additional assistance, The National Network of ADA Centers can provide local contact information for other organizations you may wish to contact, including your Regional ADA Center or ADA Knowledge Translation Center, or Federal Agencies and Resources.