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St. Louis lawyer initially denied vote due to accessibility issues

St. Louis lawyer initially denied vote due to accessibility issues

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ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis lawyer was initially turned away from his polling place Tuesday because he couldn’t use the main entrance with his wheelchair, but he was eventually allowed to vote Wednesday after filing a lawsuit. 

James W. Schottel Jr.’s lawsuit says he showed up at his polling place, the Central Library at 1301 Olive Street, at 6:50 p.m. Tuesday, and sent a passer-by to the main entrance to have them open a side door for him.

Schottel told the Post-Dispatch that he has been routinely allowed to enter that way and has never had problems before. Schottel said he can’t go through the metal detectors at the main entrance because it could affect his implanted medical device.

Schottel is an incomplete quadriplegic and uses a manual wheelchair.

On Tuesday, however, his messenger was told by someone working security that it was too late for Schottel to vote. He wheeled himself to the main entrance and was refused entrance again by the security officer.

“He didn’t care. He just said it’s too late,” Schottel said.

Schottel said he’d worked all day and wheeled himself four blocks to the library, past road construction that made the trip even harder. He said the experience left him “extremely frustrated and aggravated.”

He filed a lawsuit but was then told by Gary Stoff, the city’s Republican director of elections, that he would be allowed to vote Wednesday at the election board.

Schottel said that he would dismiss the suit after voting, which he did around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. He said Stoff apologized.

Stoff told the Post-Dispatch that Schottel should have been allowed to vote.

Stoff said there are "any number" polling places where handicapped entrances are in different locations.

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