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WNY organizations to co-host roundtable on voting and access to the polls

Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Early voters wait in line outside the St. John De LaSalle Center in Niagara Falls in the November 2020 election.

A Western New York roundtable called “Fighting for Our Vote 2.0” will take participants through how to vote, what happens to your ballot after you submit it, myths and truths about voting, and issues that impact access to voting.

The event, to be held over Zoom at 7 p.m. Thursday, is free and will be auto-captioned.  


The panel will be moderated by Buffalo City Court Judge Lenore Foote-Beavers and will include BJ Stasio, the president of the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State; L. Nathan Hare, the CEO of the Community Action Organization of Western New York; Barbara Gunderson, the voter service chair at the League of Women Voters of Buffalo Niagara; and the Erie County Board of Elections commissioners. The event is also hosted by the NAACP.


In terms of access to voting, Stasio said people need to know how to advocate and ask questions about accessibility. His organization, SANYS, was created by and is led by people with developmental disabilities, to promote the civil rights of people with developmental disabilities. 


He said he always calls his polling place ahead of time to ask one question.


“Is the accessible polling machine, the AutoMARK device that I use, plugged in? Right away I asked that and the answer is usually, ‘Well, nobody's going to use it.’ I'm like, ‘Well, guess what, I am. So, plug it in, please,’” Stasio said.


He added that when this happens, he also calls the Board of Elections to let them know. He said it is essential that everyone understand voting access, including the fact that anyone can use an accessible machine, including non-disabled people. He said that everyone using that machine actually helps to make sure that it’s not only on, but that there is demand for it.


“Unless you show up to vote, nobody's gonna use it. So, you need to show up and be visible and be seen and be heard,” Stasio said.


Stasio will provide information in the roundtable about what people need to know to make sure that voting is open and accessible to everyone. He emphasized that everyone needs to care about voting access.


“Think about the time when you're going to need that ramp, when you get older, or you have a surgery, which is a disabling condition for a while, hopefully not forever, then you will walk a mile in our shoes, or our wheels, or our crutches and understand the importance of access, and all we want is equal access to our community,” Stasio said.


Hare, of the Community Action Organization of Western New York, will also be dispelling some confusion voters might have.


“Participants will learn what has changed in the laws and election procedures applicable to the next election,” he said in an email. “Many are concerned that New York state has joined the dozens of others seeking to reduce voter participation under the guise of increased ballot security.”


He added that part of the webinar will tackle “the issue of the various myths that have been pushed about possible fraud that have undermined peoples’ confidence in the election results.”


Gunderson said that the point of this presentation is to give people the information they need to go to the polls and have equal access to the polls.


“We're really excited about it, because the more information people have about voting, the more we hope they'll feel empowered to actually vote,” Gunderson said.


For more information:


Click here to register for the event.


Click here for the flyer


Click here for LWVBN’s webpage about the event.


Emyle Watkins is an investigative journalist covering disability for WBFO.
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