Disabled man able to vote on South referendum

Resident Bill Brown, who used a motorized scooter to get around, was unable to vote in the April school elections and June primary because there was no ramp at the YMAC on Wilson Street.

By: Cynthia Williamson
   LAMBERTVILLE — It was still hours before the polls were set to open at 3 p.m. Tuesday for South Hunterdon High School’s referendum vote.
   But city resident Bill Brown already was confident he’d be able to cast his ballot, unlike the June 26 primary election when he lingered outside the Young Men’s Athletic Club on Wilson Street because there was no means for him to access the building.
   A temporary ramp the city places at a side entrance for elections had not been installed so Mr. Brown, 44, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 13 years ago and uses a motorized scooter to get around, could not vote.
   He said the situations he had faced in previous elections would be different Tuesday because a permanent concrete ramp has been built to replace the temporary structure.
   "I know because I tried it out about a month ago," he said.
   The only thing missing is a special door that’s been ordered but hasn’t arrived yet, he said.
   "They’re going to leave the door ajar," he said, "and if I need help, I’ve been told to knock, yell or do anything I need to do to get someone to help me."
   He added, "They’re aware of me."
   A separate concrete pathway leading from the parking lot to the handicapped ramp also has been constructed. A drainage ditch Mr. Brown always had to navigate at the foot of the temporary ramp, also has been rectified, he said.
   "They did a real good job," he remarked.
   The modifications end an ongoing struggle Mr. Brown has had with the city and Hunterdon County Board of Elections over handicapped access to the polling place.
   He was told a permanent ramp would be in place by the April school board elections. But due to inclement weather, the work never was completed.
   After the fiasco in June, he said, Lambertville Mayor David Del Vecchio made a pledge to him, "one way or the other" the access issue would be resolved "even if resolving it means gaining access or moving" the polling place.
   "He’s been very nice about the whole thing," Mr. Brown said.