DOJ Finds Alaska’s Elections Aren’t Accessible For Voters with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that Alaska does not provide accessible voting measures for people with disabilities, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“For too long, people with disabilities have been denied the fundamental rights and freedoms that citizens of our democracy possess, including the opportunity to fully participate in the voting process,” Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke said in a statement. 

U.S. Department of Justice building in Washington, D.C. (Adobe Stock)

The DOJ released its findings this week in a letter addressed to Alaska’s Director of Elections Carol Beecher. The DOJ said that during its 2020 and 2022 local, state and federal elections, the state violated Title II of the ADA, which requires state and local governments to ensure that people with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote. 

The DOJ opened its investigation after receiving complaints from individuals about Alaska’s state and federal elections in August and November 2022 and certain local elections in October 2023.

The report found numerous problems, including that the state’s polling locations did not always have accessible voting machines. Of those that did have accessible voting machines, the DOJ found that many did not work and poll workers did not know how to fix them. The DOJ also said that many polling places were located in buildings that were not accessible for voters, including those using wheelchairs or mobility aids.

The department also noted that Alaska’s election website is inaccessible for individuals with disabilities, including voters who are blind or have low vision and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The DOJ stated in its letter that Alaska must implement measures to ensure its voting services, programs and activities comply with the ADA. The state has until July 1 to respond to the DOJ about resolving this, and if a resolution can’t be reached, the DOJ may initiate a lawsuit against the state.

“Voting is a fundamental right for all American citizens and ensuring they have full access to the election process is a hallmark of our democracy,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska S. Lane Tucker said in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to collaborate with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to work toward accessibility in voting for all Alaskans.”

Read the DOJ’s letter here.

Learn more about accessibility for voters with disabilities here.