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'It is about rights': Bexar County's deaf community says they're being denied access to voting

Of the roughly 50 early voting sites around the county, just two have interpreters.

SAN ANTONIO — More than half of registered voters in Bexar County have already cast their ballot and, according to local elections officials, the early voting turnout has surpassed the total number of ballots cast in the 2016 general election. 

However, as Bexar County voters turn out in force, deaf residents say they're being left out. Kay Chiodo, an advocate for the local deaf community, claims some deaf people in our area are being denied the access to vote.

"They are telling them, 'No, you have to go somewhere else,'" she said. "So some of them are being turned away from the polling sites."

She said those who are deaf need to communicate with poll workers. For some, sign language is the only way they can accomplish that. 

"There are people who are deaf, who are born deaf that read and write English very well," she said. "But a large majority of them do not. They depend on their native language, which is ASL (American Sign Language)."

Yenter is deaf and said he couldn't vote near his house, because no one would help him.

"The deaf should be able to vote anywhere just a like a hearing a person," he said. "I would expect all locations to have an interpreter or have access to an interpreter. It should be equal, just like people in wheelchairs; every location they go has a ramp.

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said that, of about 50 throughout the area, there are two sites with interpreters: The main office on Frio Street, and San Antonio College.

"We've worked well with the deaf community," she said. "We've been inclusive.

At the elections department, they provide interpretive services with technology. The elections administrator said they're planning to implement more accessible sites and technology for the deaf community in the future. 

Chiodo, meanwhile, said she hopes those promises come sooner rather than later.

"It is about rights," Chiodo said. "Forget the laws. Just (have) a little respect for other human beings and their voice."

Friday is the final day of early voting. Polls open at 8 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.