National Disability Voter Registration Week

Be seen. Be heard. Be counted. AAPD Rev Up Campaign. National Disability Voter Registration Week. www.aapd.com

Monday, July 15 - Friday, July 19 is National Disability Voter Registration Week, organized by the American Association of People with Disabilities and a coalition of other disability organizations. Here is some information on this week focusing on voter registration for people with disabilities:

Facts and resources about people with disabilities and voting:

* In a study of 2018 election participation of people with disabilities, Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse of Rutgers University report:

* 14.3 disabled people voted in the 2018 Midterm Elections. That’s an 8.5% increase over the 2014 Midterm Elections.

* Despite the recent increase, the voting rate for people with disabilities is still 4.7% lower than for non-disabled people. If disabled people voted at the same rate, there would be well over 2 million more votes from disabled people.

* Another 10.2 million voters were not themselves disabled, but had people with disabilities in their households … husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents. That means there were 24.5 million voters in 2018 who were either disabled or had close experience of disability issues. That’s about 20% of all votes cast in 2018 … a very significant voting bloc.

* A recent Time Magazine article discussed the growing importance of voters with disabilities in elections.

* People with any disabilities are eligible to vote, provided they meet the usual citizenship and age requirements. The right to vote can only be legally restricted by order of a Judge. If you or someone you know is under legal guardianship but would like to vote, they can explore having their right to vote restored.

* Polling places should be physically accessible, and have voting mechanisms that are accessible to blind, visually impaired, and physically impaired people. Some disabled people may, if they choose, request a mail-in absentee ballot, but that does not lessen the obligation for polling sites to be accessible.

* If transportation is an issue, and you want to vote, it’s best to make arrangements well ahead of election day.

* You may be asked to provide identification at your polling site. A driver’s license, passport, or non-driver ID will suffice.

If you have any difficulty voting, or anyone tries to prevent you from voting, call your Board of Elections: Clinton Co. 518-565-4740, Essex Co. 518-873-3474, Franklin Co. 518-481-1663.

You can learn more about checking your voter registration, and registering to vote at these links:

New York State Board Of Elections

New York Disability Vote Network

Rock The Vote Voter Registration

You can also register at the NCCI offices any time during business hours.

Action Alert: Act Now to Ensure All Voting Reforms Are Accessible To People With Disabilities!

Action Alert in large white letters on a dark red background

This Action Alert was posted today by the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL) ...

The legislature is planning to take up a package of voting reforms on Monday. Among the package of bills is A.780/S.1102, which would implement early voting in New York State. NYAIL strongly supports making it easier to vote by enacting voting reforms like early voting and same day and automatic voter registration, but it is critical that accessibility is prioritized in all of these proposed policies!

As written, the current bill does not ensure full accessibility to voters with disabilities during early voting. It does not require that a ballot marking device be available during early voting. In other states that already have early voting, ballot marking devices have not always been available. It is critical that the state ensure they are available in New York! Other states have not always included BMDs during early voting. This is unacceptable!

Call the Election Law Chairs and the heads of the State Senate and Assembly today and urge them to ensure full accessibility during early voting when they take up A.780/S.1102 on Monday!

Action: CALL TODAY!

  • Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins - 518-455-2585
  • Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie - 518-455-3791
  • Assembly Election Law Chair, Charles Lavine - 518-455-5456
  • Senate Election Law Chair, Zellnor Myrie - 518-455-2431

Say:

"I strongly support making it easier for everyone to vote by implementing early voting, automatic voter registration and same day voter registration, as long as accessibility for voters with disabilities is prioritized in all voting reforms. A.780/S.1102 does not do this. The bill does not mandate a ballot marking device, which allows people to vote privately and independently, be available during early voting. Whenever and wherever elections are held and in whatever format, the State and localities must make all voting accessible to all voters with disabilities, and having a ballot marking device at all polling locations during early voting is an essential part of full accessibility."

Voting Q & A

Large blue “VOTE” logo, in which the “O” is part of a stylized wheelchair symbol’s wheel

How do I check my registration and register to vote? What is the deadline?

Click here for a website where you can check your registration status, and register to vote online in New York State. You can also register at most government offices, and at most human services agencies, including here at the North Country Center for Independence. Call us at 518-563-9058 if you want to register and need assistance.

- The voter registration deadline in New York is Friday, October 12 for the 2018 Midterms on November 6. Click here to see the registration deadlines in all 50 states.
Photo of several red, white, and blue buttons reading "VOTE"
I don't drive or have a car. How am I supposed to get to the polls?

- The first step is to make sure you know exactly where your polling place is. Click here for a website where you can find out.

- Is it close enough to walk or wheel to? Could you afford to take a cab, just that once, to cast your vote? Call your county transportation department and ask if there is wheelchair-accessible transportation that can take you to and from the polls. You can also call your local Democratic or Republican Party, (whichever you prefer), and ask if they can help you get to the polls.

- If getting to the polls is going to be difficult in any way, it’s best to plan as far ahead as possible so you can make arrangements.

Why is polling place accessibility important? Can't disabled people just vote absentee?

- In NYS, most people with disabilities can get an absentee ballot if they want one. This allows you to cast your vote by mail. And absentee votes are just as valid and counted as votes cast at the polls. Click here for more information on voting by absentee ballot in New York State.

- However, many people prefer to go to their local polling place to vote, the way most voters do, and they have a right to do so. People with disabilities also have an equal right to an accessible polling place where they can independently and privately cast their ballot. All polling places in New York State should have a way for people with mobility, motor, visual, or hearing disabilities to cast their vote.

- If you choose to have someone help you with the voting process, you may. But you cannot be forced by someone else into having help to vote.

Aren't there certain kinds of disabilities that make it impossible or inappropriate to vote?

- In the United States, you don't have to demonstrate any particular level of knowledge or understanding to be eligible to vote. You just have to be a United States citizen and 18 years old or over. That applies to everyone, including people with all kinds of disabilities.

- NYS Law allows judges to rule a person with cognitive disabilities ineligible to vote when it is part of a legal guardianship. However, it is not an automatic part of every guardianship, it can be reversed and voting allowed if appealed, and in general, people have a right to register regardless of their disabilities unless specifically deemed ineligible by a judge.

- The vast majority of people with disabilities are as capable as anyone else of making their own voting decisions.

I don't know much about politics. Wouldn't it be kind of wrong for me to vote?

- One of the core principles of democracy is that you don't have to have a certain level of knowledge or intelligence to have a meaningful right to vote. If your vote isn't especially informed, and cast more on instinct, it is still valuable, and your insights are no better or worse than those of other voters.

- That said, if you feel like you would like to be more knowledgeable, you can change that. You can start by visiting websites about the 2018 Midterm Elections, and then visiting the websites of candidates who will be on your ballot.
Red white and blue sign reading "VOTE!"
Why is it important for people with disabilities to vote?

- People with disabilities are a potentially huge voting constituency. Almost 16 million people with disabilities voted in 2016. Recently, major elections have come down to thousands of votes. In local races, hundreds or even handfuls of votes can make the difference.

- In 2016, 68.3% of voting age people with disabilities were registered to vote, compared to 70.6% of non-disabled people, a 2.3% gap. 82% of registered disabled voters actually voted, compared with 88% of non-disabled registered voters, a 6% gap. (Source: Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse, Fact sheet: Disability and Voter Turnout in the 2016 Elections).

- Just about all disability-related policy is affected by who is elected to Congress, state legislatures, counties, towns, and village offices … including the scope, quality, and funding of Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security, SNAP and housing assistance, home care, developmental disability services, independent living centers, and civil rights laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

- Who knows better how these and other disability programs should be designed and implemented. Very few lawmakers really know the disability experience. They rely on us not just for our votes, but for our everyday expertise on disability issues. We have the numbers and the knowledge to make a difference. But potential alone doesn’t do anything. First we have to follow through and vote.

The National Council on Independent Living has resources for voters with disabilities. Click here to visit their page.

You can also check an analysis of the races for Congress, every day from now until election day, at these FiveThirtyEight.com pages: Senate Forecast - House Forecast.

If you are looking for information on current disability issues, visit the following websites:

2018 NCIL Legislative & Advocacy Priorities Booklet