Friday, January 15, 2016

Accessibility at Iowa Caucuses: A Time-Sensitive Matter

Iowa and 14 other states use caucuses to nominate people it recommends to the rest of the nation as presidential candidates. My only exposure to how caucuses operate was the last episode of A Good Wife. It seems like a wild and wooly process, with a lot of back-and-forth, and a mix of rules, some of which may not be followed. As I understand it, any place, including a private home, can be designated as a caucus site in Iowa.

This approach may present people with disabilities, who want to be caucus goers, with real challenges -- can they get in, can they know what is going on and how things work, can they participate and be heard, can they use the watercloset and get a drink of water? In other words, does their desire to be part of a caucus matter?

I suspect the state political parties, and not the state election commission, have control over what locations are designated as caucus sites. Was any effort made to pick accessible sites and to develop disability-sensitive procedures? If so, were methods developed to let the public know about them? If people in a particular area are required to use a specific caucus site, if not accessible, does a caucus goer with a disability have other options -- an alternative site, joining the caucus by phone, Skype, FaceTime, or some other means?

Caucus night is February 1, so the state parties and the campaigns have a limited time to fix things if they are not right. The Democrat race has tightened up and the Republican race has a large field of candidates. So everyone has a vested interest in getting their supporters to the caucuses. The outcome of the caucuses affect the momentum of the contest going forward.

Raise the questions here with appropriate people in Iowa. Make sure any caucus goer with a disability gets to participate fully.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

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