Accessibility Barrier at Polling Location: 2022 Election in Santa Clara County

Michele Mashburn
4 min readNov 14, 2022


Hello Registrar of Voters Staff:

We met at the Women’s Leadership and Policy Summit in September. This email is to report an accessibility issue with the setup at a polling location (location removed as they are not responsible in this situation) in San Jose on voting day and to ask for an administrative ADA complaint to be recorded. When I arrived, the 1 disabled parking space that was set up for this temporary event was not a van-access spot. The venue did not have a van-access space in their small parking lot. I have included three photos for additional details.

I am a wheelchair user with a ramp van that requires van access to exit the vehicle. Luckily, I had my worker with me who was voting also and he parked overlapping 2 spaces, blocking the other one to ensure my access. This is not an ideal setup and fails to include disability people in the planning and implementation process.

With my applied fix, I likely had to block at least one other person from voting. I talked with the supervisor on site and inquired about the overall training for the security guards and other members working at the site and was told that there was minimal content on disability awareness or understanding.

They offered me curbside voting as an option and, as usual, failed to understand how that can actually be oppressive and discriminatory if not what the person desires. While I realize we all have to work together to accomplish voting access and ensure that voter suppression is not going on in our County, this trend of offering curbside voting as a fix for accessibility barriers that can be resolved PRIOR to opening the polling location is not appropriate on any level.

If the County cannot find adequate polling locations with adequate parking, those details MUST be included in the public polling place details that there is either ADA parking or there is not adequate parking. With the new laws allowing more voting locations, it is easy to shift to another location if that knowledge is public. A full disability voter access guide would be a great tool to use with the ongoing activities around elections.

The California Polling Place Accessibility guidelines ( state that if there is off-street parking that the 1 space must be a van-access space.

Questions I would like answered:

  • Is the County ROV aware of the polling location parking requirements
  • Was this gap in setup compliance noted on a setup log? If not, was it even understood as a gap? Why or why not?
  • Was the space evaluated to ensure that the polling location met the basic requirements of the elements of disability equity to ensure that all voters could vote?
  • What policies and SOPs exist to ensure that the State Polling Place guidelines are adhered to? (If possible, I would love to see a copy of these.)
  • How can the County improve the accessibility and inclusion for disabled people in our elections so their voices are recorded and their independence and autonomy supported?

I would like this recorded as an administrative ADA violation with the County. While I realize that the County may not track this type of situation at this time, an administrative violation would help the County keep track of disability equity measures and ensure that the 2021 Disability Equity and Inclusion Pledge is upheld. If you are not able to advance this complaint, please let me know and I will reach out to my County Supervisor to address the issue.

I have included two fellow disability advocates, as well as, the Chief Inclusion Officer, and the Registrar of Voters to alert them on the issues as well. This email will also be going on my Medium page and my website blog (minus names). I look forward to ongoing conversations to improve equity for disability people in Santa Clara County.

Michele Mashburn



Michele Mashburn

Disability Advocate, Educator, & Activist * Cat Lover * Opinions are mine