Happy Disability Voting Rights Week!
When it comes to voting, you ideally want to support a candidate who has the same morals and ideals as you. Voting for specific candidates will not be an overnight solution to the problems you see in legislation. Not only is it important to vote in both local and federal elections, but it is equally vital to advocate for yourself, your family, your friends, and your community. Voting for a candidate, you support means they will be more likely to hear you out in your advocacy efforts if they win an election.
Advocacy is extremely important for those who are nonspeaking, minimally speaking, or unreliably speaking. There are many bills and laws that don’t intentionally target those with disabilities. However, because of long-standing prejudices, some legislators, as well as society in general, are led to believe that nonspeakers, minimal speakers, or unreliable speakers are not intelligent enough to vote or even advocate for their needs. Society also believes that these individuals are not capable of understanding legislation, which can lead to someone trying to influence their opinions. Anyone who has practiced or even witnessed an S2C session knows that is simply not true. Nonspeakers, minimal speakers, or unreliable speakers deserve to have a say and should be able to participate in the legislative process.
Below you will find information on Voting FAQs, how to write to your legislature, how to find your legislature and current restrictive laws that have a negative impact on disability voting rights in the United States.
Am I Eligible To Vote?
Rules vary slightly depending on your state. Generally, you must be:
- A citizen of the United States
- A resident of the community where you would like to vote (sometimes for a minimum amount of time)
- At least 18 years old (in some areas, individuals under the age of 18 can still register and vote in certain local or primary elections)
- In some states, but not all, people can be ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction, judicial ruling, or other procedure. If you are unsure of your state’s rules on this matter, you can contact your state or local election officials. To find your local election officials, you can go to www.vote.gov.
What Do I Need To Do To Vote?
- Most states require voters to register before they are allowed to go vote. You can find your state’s information, including voter registration deadlines, by going to www.eac.gov/vote.
- If you are interested in registering to vote, you can go to https://register.rockthevote.com/registrants/new?partner=39134%3Fsource%3Di-asc.
- In many states, you can register online. You can also register in person at a local elections office. Another option would be to sign and send in a voter registration form via postal mail. If you would like to know more about your state-specific instructions, you can visit www.eac.gov/voters/national-mailvoter-registration-form.
What Can I Expect When I Go Vote?
Voting in Person:
- Before you can vote, you need to find your assigned polling place. Once you do that, you can check the times polling places will be open in your state.
- Once you get there, you will need to check in with a poll worker. They will ensure that you are eligible to proceed with the voting process. In some states, you will need to bring a government-issued photo ID before they can give you a voting ballot. It is always best to bring a government-issued photo ID in case.
Voting by mail:
- Depending on your state, you may qualify to receive a ballot in the mail.
- Once you receive your ballot, it is time to send in your vote! If you are unsure how to receive a ballot in the mail, when and where to return your ballot, or how to track your ballot in the mail, you can check in with your local election official. You can find more information on your state-specific instructions here: www.eac.gov/voters/national-mail-voter-registration-form.
- You may also be able to receive assistance when you vote if you have a disability. Some jurisdictions may provide ballots and other voting materials in languages other than English.
- Section 7 of THE NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT OF 1993 (NVRA) states “that if a state-funded disability office provides services to a person with disabilities at the person’s home, the office must provide the opportunity to register to vote at home. Offices serving persons with disabilities often offer specialized assistance in completing the agency service or benefit application forms. Section 7 requires such offices to offer voter registration applicants the same degree of assistance in completing voter registration forms as is offered in completing the agency’s own application forms.”
- Depending on your state, if you have a disability, you may vote on Election Day without leaving your vehicle. This is known as curbside voting.
- Some states require that there is at least one voting machine accessible to voters with disabilities at each polling place.
- Some states require Accessible parking spaces, Curbside – where needed, Signs showing an accessible entrance and route in the building, Accessible voting booth with chair, Seating available for voters waiting to vote, Sufficient space for voters in wheelchairs, Notepads available to communicate in writing, and Magnifier for election material and the ballot.
Do Local Elections Matter?
Many people believe that the most critical elections happen every 2 and 4 years at the state and federal levels. However, local elections take place every year. Each state has elections for Mayors, judges, local officials, etc. Because voter turnout is so low in local elections, your vote can actually make a huge difference for your community. Find your Local Election Office Website here:https://www.usa.gov/election-office.
How can I help?
- Stay informed of any bills that are trying to be passed. If a bill does not align with your views or you believe it will have a negative impact on you or others, you can write a letter to your legislator expressing that you oppose that bill. (See below for more information on how to write to your legislator.)
- Election protection ensures that every eligible voter has the right to have their voice heard. Registered voters are often turned away from the polls, unsure of their polling place, or stopped from exercising their rights. You can take action at home or in person by volunteering as a nonpartisan election protection volunteer. These volunteers serve as voters’ first line of defense against outdated infrastructure, misinformation, confusion, and other obstacles. For more information, click here: https://protectthevote.net/.
- An Inclusive Election means including disabled poll workers too! By helping staff at your local polling place, you are paving the way for others with disabilities to do the same. This is an opportunity to prove society wrong regarding misconceptions about nonspeakers, minimal speakers, and unreliable speakers. To sign up, go to www.powerthepolls.org.
Why does writing to my legislature matter even after I vote?
- Many legislators believe that a letter, fax, or phone call to their office represents the constituent’s position in the matter. This form of advocacy also serves as a representation of all the other constituents who did not take the time to write, fax, or call their office. Many people believe that their voices do not matter to legislatures. However, many of these legislators go into office with the mission of helping this country. Therefore, they want to hear what people have to say. Letters also show who and how many people a law will affect. If there is no evidence of public consensus, then legislators will assume that there is no problem with specific legislation. There are legislative aids who read these letters and bring the general consensus to the legislator.
Tips on writing an effective letter:
- Keep it brief and no longer than one page per letter.
- Limit each letter to one specific issue.
- State who you are and what you want in the first paragraph.
- Hit your 3 most important points.
- Personalize your letter by telling them why this legislation matters to you or your community.
- Personalize your relationship with the legislator. Have you ever voted for them? If so, why did you originally support them?
- You are the expert. Remember this. Your legislator’s job is to represent YOU.
- Be firm on your position in the matter.
Writing To Your Legislatures:
TEMPLATE LETTER THAT YOU CAN USE TO WRITE TO YOUR LEGISLATOR:
How to find your legislature:
Examples of laws that you can write your legislatures about:
I-ASC Outreach and Development Coordinator