Hinton, W.Va. – The Secretary of State’s Office delivered a Help America Vote Act (HAVA) grant totaling $8,225 to the Summers County Commission and Summers County Clerk Mary Beth Merritt Monday morning.
The grant will be used to update polling places to allow easier access for voters with disabilities. HAVA funds are specifically designated to establish, expand and improve access to and participation in the election process by individuals with disabilities.
Summers County is improving three polling places by creating more easily accessible routes from the parking area to the entrance to the polling place. Additionally, Precinct 32 is installing an entry door threshold ramp and replacing the door knob with a lever that is usable with one hand.
“Awarding these types of grants shows how our local government can work with state government to make voting more accessible,” Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant said. “It’s awful to think of someone being unable to get into the polling place because they couldn’t grip a doorknob to turn it. I’m glad the County Commission and Clerk Merritt are being proactive and using all the resources that are available to make the voting process more accessible for the citizens of Summers County.”
In October, Secretary Tennant personally delivered a HAVA grant for $4,820 to Putnam County. That grant money was used to install a hydraulic oil cooler to be used on the elevator that carried voters to the early voting location on the second floor of the courthouse. During high traffic periods of early voting, the elevator’s motor would often overheat, meaning disabled voters either had difficulty getting to the polling place or couldn’t make it there at all.
These funds are called the HAVA VOTE funds and are available as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. They are administered by the US Department of Health and Human Services as the Voting Access for Individuals with Disabilities grant program. This $8,225.00 in HAVA VOTE funds will be used to pay 100 percent of the costs for these Summers County projects.
This year, the Secretary of State’s Office awarded $6,000 HAVA grants to both Boone and Mercer Counties to purchase signs for each precinct to direct disabled voters to an accessible entrance. Roane County was also awarded a HAVA grant to purchase a new, easier to open door at the senior center in Amma. Last year, the Secretary of State’s Office awarded an Americans With Disabilities Act grant to Wood County to pave the gravel parking lot of a precinct located at a church. That grant, for $9,757, made it easier for voters with disabilities to make it to the polls and helped with traffic flow.
Since 2003, the Secretary of State’s Office and the Help America Vote Act have awarded more than $520,000 in grants to make sure people have easy access to voting locations.
The Secretary of State's Office delivered the HAVA grant to Summers
County Clerk Mary Beth Merritt (center) and Summers County
Commissioners on December 5, 2011. Secretary of State Outreach
Specialist Brittany Erskine is second from right.