PARKERSBURG - West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant was in town Monday to deliver an $8,400 Help America Vote Act Grant to Wood County for improvements on two voter precincts.
The grant will fully fund improvements at Precincts 62 and 62A at the Washington Community Building to make them more accessible to those with disabilities. Two Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant doors and two ramps will be installed at the voting locations.
This is the fourth HAVA grant Tennant has presented to Wood County.
In October 2010, she delivered a $9,757 grant that fully funded improvements to the voting location at Rosemar United Methodist Church. In 2009 Wood County received $6,037 in HAVA funds to improve voting locations at the Boaz Lions Club, the Williamstown City Building, and Calvary Memorial Church. And in 2012 the county was awarded $5,810 in HAVA grant funding to improve the voting location at the Vienna Library.
Since 2004, $643,075 has been awarded to counties to make voting precincts more accessible.
"Part of the legislation passed in 2002 was aimed at making our voting precincts more accessible for those with disabilities. The grants are federal funds through the Department of Health and Human Resources to help bring the precincts into compliance," Tennant said.
"These grants are not just for election day, it means making changes that improve the facility, to make it more accessibility for all uses. But there should be no undue barriers on the ability for an eligible voter to get to a polling place," Tennant said.
Wood County Clerk Jamie Six said the grant funds have enabled some facilities to become more accessible that would not have happened otherwise.
"The Methodist Church, for example, could not afford to make the changes on their own," Six said.
"When we told the folks at the Washington Community Building we were getting this grant, they were very excited, they are so thankful," said deputy clerk Melody Ross.
Voters with disabilities who are registered in a non-accessible precinct have a number of options. They can re-register to vote in another precinct within their district which is handicapped accessible. If they choose that option, all their family members can re-register to vote in that precinct as well. They can vote absentee by mail, and early voting is an option as well. All Wood County's early vote sites including the new community voting sites are all handicapped accessible, they can also request a ballot be brought to them if they stay in the same precinct.
Recent efforts at precinct consolidation included elimination of some non-accessible precincts.
"My goal was to have 100 percent of our precincts handicapped accessible, and there will still be seven when I leave, but I'm sure the staff will continue those efforts after I'm gone," Six said. Six last week announced he will be resigning from his clerk's position effective at the end of July.