People With Disabilities Faced More Than Just Long Lines During Election Fiasco

Published: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 7:10am
Updated: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 11:59am
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Jacob McAuliffe/KJZZ
Lines like this one at the polling place in Papago Park in Phoenix wrapped on for hours during the 2016 Presidential Preference Election.

As Arizona top election officials are quizzed over what went wrong in last week’s Presidential Preference Election, some people with disabilities faced other hurdles besides casting their vote.

Melissa Santora was determined to vote in Tuesday's election. But because of her disability, which can make it difficult to walk or stand for very long, she ended up driving to five polling stations before casting her ballot in Tempe. Santora lives in Central Phoenix, but she says could not find a place to park at the other locations.

Once in line, Santora says she was in excrutiating pain.

"It was obvious I was in pain, I was shifting, I was lifting my leg," she said. "There were people in line that said, 'Why don’t you go sit down?' There was a planter, and they said go sit down we’ll save your place. And they were saying [that] to other people with disabilities too. And at one point there were three or four us sitting on the planter."

It took her over an hour to vote. She told a poll worker that there were other people with disabilities waiting in the long lines and asked if someone could inform them if they could go to the front of the line.

"On my way out from voting, I heard someone go up and down up the line, yelling loudly, 'Handicaps to the front! Handicaps to the front of the line!" she recalled. "I was horrified by that particular statement."

Renaldo Fowler is with the Arizona Center for Disability Law. During an election, Fowler oversees a hotline for people to call if they have questions. He says in the past, they received a handful of calls. This election was different.

"We received approximately over 200 calls that day and since the elections, we continue to receive some calls."

Fowler says callers were concerned about long wait times and polling locations. He says 97 percent of those calls were from Maricopa County.   

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