Getting to the polls on Tuesday, November 4 may take more planning than in the past for many Minnesotans with disabilities.
The Rides to the Polls Coalition, which had been active for several years in providing accessible rides to general elections, isn’t hitting the road this year.
The coalition, which began providing rides in 2008, was made up of several disability service organizations. Most recently the coalition was organized through Courage Kenny with funding from Frey Foundation. That funding has ended.
No other provider was able to continue the service without funding, according to members of the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD). The need for a new provider and funding was announced earlier this year at a MN-CCD gathering but no other group took on the task of lining up volunteers and vehicles, and promoting the service.
Throughout the state, low participation, rising fuel costs and lack of volunteers has put the brakes on other ride programs. Two of the last programs were in Rochester and St. Cloud areas. Neither sponsor has indicated that it is providing rides this November. Jeff Narabrook of the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office confirmed that there is no disability community-specific Rides to the Polls program this year. “But there are other options if people plan ahead,” he said.
The Secretary of State’s office encourages voters who need transportation to the polling place to contact family, friends or neighbors. In some communities political parties provide rides. State law prohibits persons transporting voters to the polls from indicting or persuading voters about their candidate or ballot selections on Election Day. That law includes political parties. A check with some parties active in Minnesota indicates that none provide accessible vehicles.
Paratransit services such as Metro Mobility, as well as dial-aride and deviated-route services in non-urban areas, are not required to offer free transportation on Election Day. But other public transit providers, such as Metro Transit in the Twin Cities, must offer regular, fixed-route transit service free of charge on Election Day. This means planning ahead to see which regular bus routes stop closest to a polling place. It’s best to contact a transit provider in advance to check Election Day options.
Regular, fixed route transit is offered by bus, light rail and commuter in Minneapolis, St. Paul and other communities served by Metro Transit. In Maple Grove, service is provided by Maple Grove Transit.
In Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Rosemount, Savage and Lakeville Cedar Park & Ride, contact Minnesota Valley Transit Authority. In Plymouth, service is provided by Plymouth MetroLink. Residents of Shakopee and Prior Lake can contact Shakopee Transit and Laker Lines. In Chanhassen, Chaska and Eden Prairie, the provider is Southwest Transit.
There are several fixed-route transit providers in Greater Minnesota communities including Duluth, Proctor, and Hermantown; East Grand Forks, La Crescent, Mankato and North Mankato, Moorhead and Dilworth, Rochester and St. Cloud, Waite Park, Sauk Rapids and Sartell.
An option to taking regular route transit is to vote absentee, by mail or by going to an elections office before Election Day. (See related story above.)