Disability Voter Resource Guide 2018

Information for Voters With Disabilities and Their Loved Ones

Steve Bartlett

According to a new survey released by RespectAbility, fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member, or a close friend with disabilities. But as voters with disabilities head to the polls, many are concerned about various access issues from physical accessibility to voter ID laws. 

“Our survey shows that 74 percent of likely voters are touched by disabilities,” said former Representative and Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett, who was a primary author of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Bartlett is the chairman of RespectAbility, a Washington-based nonpartisan nonprofit that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can participate in all aspects of community. “Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. These folks deserve an equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else. Candidates for office ignore the disability community at their peril.”

Fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities. Our survey shows that 74 percent of likely voters are touched by disabilities. Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. These folks deserve an equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else. Candidates for office ignore the disability community at their peril.

Steve Bartlett, Chair, RespectAbility and Primary Author of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990

According to the Census Bureau, more than 56 million Americans live with some form of disability. This can include visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or hearing loss to people living with invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health or autism.

“Of particular note from the survey is that while there are certain issues historically on which people with disabilities feel more strongly than Americans without disabilities, such as healthcare and employment opportunities, they track in a similar way to Americans overall when it comes to their political identity,” noted Meagan Buren, pollster for RespectAbility.

A recent poll of 1,000 likely voters shows that fully 34 percent are grouped as swing voters, 36 percent as Democrat and 29 percent as Republican. More than half of Americans with disabilities have reached out to their elected officials or attended a political rally in the recent past versus 39 percent of Americans without a disability or any disability connection. Nearly three-quarters of people with disabilities watch, read or listen to the news five to seven times a week.

“This is a politically active, swing vote demographic and candidates should take note of important issues they care about, especially around employment opportunities,” Buren added.

This is a federal election year; additionally, many state legislative seats, state executive offices, local offices and ballot amendments will be voted on. Therefore, RespectAbility compiled resources provided by general Election Day voter rights organizations as well as those provided by various disability groups.

See below for apps and information on where to vote, how to vote and who to contact in case there is an issue. Voters with disabilities have every right to vote. If there is a problem voting due to lack of access for disability, contact 866-OUR-VOTE to talk to lawyers on hand to answer Election Day questions and concerns about voting procedures, or other resources listed below, immediately. Please let RespectAbility know as well by emailing LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

Election Day Assistance

Rock the Vote has several online tools that simplify and demystify voter registration and elections. Their website includes information on how to:

  • Check voter registration
  • Voter requirements
  • Find a polling place
  • State election information and learn about the candidates

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission created a tip sheet to help voters with disabilities vote privately and independently.

Easter Seals, AAPD and the REVUP campaign created a checklist for voters with disabilities. Download their voting resource card to take to the polls. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) has compiled an extensive voter resource center to help people register to vote and learn about the issues and organized the disability vote. The REVUP campaign, a project of AAPD, aims to increase the political power of the disability community, while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues. One Vote Now, a collaborative project between National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, DREDF, AAPD, RespectAbility and the National Disability Rights Network, is working to enhance the voting bloc of people with disabilities.

The Voting Information Project supports an SMS tool that provides voters with election information via text message. By texting “VOTE” or “VOTO” to GOVOTE (468-683), voters can find polling places, contact information for local election officials and registration URLs. The app is available in multiple languages.

The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, in partnership with several other disability advocacy organizations, published A Guide to the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities. This newly updated guide lists key legal principles, provides information about state laws and practices that limit the voting rights of people with mental disabilities, and offers tools to help people with disabilities preserve or restore their voting rights. Learn more: www.bazelon.org/our-work/voting.

Need help getting to the polls?

In addition to contacting local candidates’ offices, reach out to Carpool Vote, a service connecting volunteer drivers with anybody who needs a ride to claim their vote. Transportation often is a factor for why people with disabilities do not vote and Carpool Vote is aiming to change that.

  • Offer to drive or request a ride online: http://carpoolvote.com
  • For help using Carpool Vote, call or SMS: 804-424-5335

In addition, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is partnering with Lyft, a popular ride-hailing app, to help blind voters get to the polls. Lyft has provided NFB’s national headquarters with a number of promotion codes, worth $15 each, which are being distributed through 11 of their affiliates: Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. 

"What if I go to the polls and they tell me I am not registered to vote?"

First, make sure it is the right polling place. If it's the wrong polling place, they will not have the voter's name on its list of voters. If it's the correct location and the voter is not on the list, voters still can cast a ballot. Ask the poll worker for a provisional ballot. After the polls close on Election Day, the state will check on the status of the voter's registration and if there was a mistake made. The state must notify the voter as to whether their ballot was counted.

"On Election Day, if I think my rights have been violated, what should I do?"

If voters have any questions at the polls, they should first ask an election official on site for assistance. If they are unable to assist or if the voter believes they violated the voter's voting rights, they should contact the Election Protection Coalition, a nonpartisan coalition working year-round to advance and defend the right to vote. They have lawyers standing by to answer calls:

  • Visit 866ourvote.org
  • 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) – English
  • 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) – Spanish
  • 844-YALLA-US – Arabic
  • 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683) – Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu or Tagalog
  • 301-818-VOTE – American Sign Language
  • Text “Our Vote” to 97779

Other Resources:

Media Contact: 
Lauren Appelbaum
Phone: 202-517-6272
Email: laurena@respectability.org

Source: RespectAbility

About RespectAbility

RespectAbility is a nonpartisan nonprofit working with entertainment leaders, policy makers, educators, self-advocates, nonprofits, employers, philanthropists and journalists to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities.

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