The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 5, 2012

Determined to vote

Disabled woman says she may have to walk to polls

By WARREN DILLAWAY - warren@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

LENOX TOWNSHIP —  Terry Wereb may be disabled, but she is also determined.

Wereb, 55, of Lenox Township said she will do everything in her power to get to her designated polling place today, even if that means packing up her service dog in training and walking 2.34 miles behind her wheelchair to get there.

Wereb became upset Monday when she was told the Ashtabula County Transportation System bus was booked and could not give her an Election Day ride.

“Our Ashtabula County transportation system can’t give a ride to a disabled person,” she said. “I called the ACTS bus to arrange transportation to my polling place, and I tried to be flexible on times, and they said we can pick you up at 11 a.m., but we can’t give you a ride home. What good is a one-way ride?”

ACTS reservationist Sheila Sharp said she tries to accommodate all calls to the ACTS hotline, but the routes are often booked days in advance.

“ACTS is booked solid,” she said. “The phone never stops, and not just because it is Election Day. We schedule out seven days ahead and work on a first come first served basis. We also have contract rides, but (Wereb) probably would have gotten the ride she wanted if she had called earlier.”

Sharp said when the seats are full, they are full.

“When we get booked up, we are booked  up. We do same day rides and next day rides, but usually only by cancellations,” she said. “Sometimes we have to tell people no, and not because it is Election Day.”

ACTS serves all of Ashtabula County. The maximum fare is $1.50 for adults, with discounts for children, the elderly and the disabled.

Wereb said she is passionate about her right to visit the polls and refuses to vote early, by absentee ballot or by provisional ballot.

“People may ask ‘why didn’t you vote by mail, why didn’t you vote early?’” she said. “I am educated and I read small print, and if you vote by mail or early are all provisional ballots, so all those people who voted early — your votes don’t count unless the results of the election are contested. I have the right to go to the polls.”

Wereb, who is disabled with mobility and neurological issues since 2000, said she and her German shepherd service dog in training, Gunny, will get to the polls one way or another.

Randy Douglas of the Jefferson Community Center said that he will do all he can to get Wereb to the polls today.

“We actually don’t get a lot of calls for transportation to polling places, but we hope to coordinate a ride (for Wereb),” he said. 

Douglas said any citizen in the Jefferson area can call for a ride to the polls today, but only until 1 p.m.

To schedule a ride on the Jefferson Community Center bus, call 576-9052.

The Geneva Area Senior Center offers free transportation for from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, for any senior citizen in the Geneva Area City School District. Call 466-3048 ext. 2, but try to schedule rides two days in advance.

Two Ashtabula-area businesses will transport residents to the polls at no cost.

Richmond Transportation on Benefit Avenue has offered its services. Call 992-8600 at least one hour in advance to schedule a pick up time.

Ashtabula City Cab on Kain Avenue also is offering its services. Call 992-2156 to reserve a ride.

The polls will open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

Wereb said she is unhappy with the county transportation system.

“This is totally unsatisfactory,” she said. “I worked for 30 years. I am a registered voter and I do vote, but the way this county treats its people, disabled or not, seems to indicate that they don’t care. People are running on education and job issues, but they are ignoring some other big things.”

“Something needs to be worked out and if ACTS can’t work it out, something needs to be done with ACTS,” Wereb said.