The Power of the Vote
Happy Disability Awareness Month/Blindness Awareness Month!
In Indiana there is no way for me to vote on an absentee ballot because you cannot have someone else mark your ballot for you. A traveling board of at least two people must come to my house (during a pandemic) to verbally take my vote, violating my right to a private vote. In fact, I could vote independently via an email ballot or portal if I were overseas, but I do not have equal access in the United States.
I also could not register online because I do not have a driver’s license or state ID. I use a passport for identification and travel and that number cannot be used for registration.
I am a transplant recipient and must be exposed to the travel board workers that will be going in and out of other voters homes. I don’t know their social distancing practices or whether they wear a mask or have been exposed.
Some states that do allow assistance on absentee ballots require that they are printed and turned in at specific locations and some of these locations are not accessible with public transportation.
If people with disabilities voted at the same rate as people without disabilities who have the same demographic characteristics, there would be about 2.35 million more voters (Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse, Rutgers University)
These things may seem like small, annoying challenges, but for the disabled community they are much more. They exclude the disabled community. Can you imagine not being able to vote and participate in choosing our leaders if your life depends on health insurance through the ACA? This is the case for many disabled people.
How to Help:
If you know a disabled person ask if they have a plan to vote or if they need a ride to the polls.
Call a Voter Hotline if you or someone you know is not able to vote because of inaccessibility. I am trained and working the national DNC hotline (1-833-336-8683). Additionally, here is the Indiana Disability Rights hotline (800-622-4845).
Advocate for change. I’ve only touched on a few ways voting is not accessible. An estimated 30-35% of all voters in the next twenty-five years will need some form of accommodation. ( Belt, Stanford Law Review). Some states have made changes to insure accessibility to certain groups or disabled persons. For example, Virginia and North Carolina are providing electronic ballots for the print disabled population.
You have a right to vote. The burden should not be so heavy, but don’t give up.
Turn on Glory by John Legend and Common and call or text ten people you know to make sure they are registered and have a plan to vote. Deadlines are fast approaching.
Check out www.iwillvote.com to check if you are registered.