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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Disability Voting Rights

Donate Now to Close the Gap of People with Disabilities in Elected Office

A new study released by Rutgers University reveals that only 10.3 percent of elected officials have disabilities, compared with a rate of 15.7 percent in the overall studied population. That leaves a gap of over 5 percent between where elected representation of people with disabilities is and where we need it to be.

We want to close that gap. When our governments – large or small – don’t reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, democracy fails. Our governments need to be truly by the people, for the people – and that includes people with disabilities.

But we can’t close the gap without you. NCIL’s Elevate program is the first and only non-partisan program that trains people with disabilities to run for elected office. Our pilot program this past summer was a great success. Now we need your help to keep it going. Your support will help us run more webinars, hire more expert consultants, and reach more people with disabilities interested in running for office. Together, we can give people with disabilities the tools they need to run for office, win the race, and close the disability representation gap in elected office.

We can’t make change if we don’t have a seat at the table. Donate today to close the gap in political leadership for people with disabilities.

For Immediate Release: One in Ten Elected Officials Has a Disability

October 3, 2019

Contact: Sarah Blahovec, 571-777-8531, sarah@ncil.org

New Report Finds Gap in Political Representation of People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C. – According to a new study by Professors Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse, co-directors of the Program for Disability Research in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, an estimated 10.3 percent of elected officials serving in federal, state, and local government have disabilities. That is more than five percentage points lower than the overall disability rate in the adult population studied in this data.

This report marks the first quantitative study of representation of people with disabilities in elected office. Schur and Kruse analyzed 2013-17 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which measures disability on four kinds of impairment (hearing, visual, mobility, cognitive) and difficulty with basic activities inside or outside the home. The researchers’ key findings include:

  • 15.7 percent of adults and 10.3 percent of elected officials have a disability. That is a gap of 5.4 percentage points, suggesting that people with disabilities are underrepresented in elected positions.
  • 12 percent of elected officials in local government have a disability, compared to 6.9 percent at the state level and 6.3 percent at the federal level.
  • The rate of disability is slightly lower among women elected officials at 8.3 percent, than among men elected officials at 11.4 percent.
  • The vast majority of elected officials with disabilities are white, non-Hispanic men.
[Read more…]

Candidates Respond to the NCIL / AAPD Questionnaire on Disability Politics

Tonight is the third Democratic presidential debate. Will you be tuning in? 

In August, NCIL and the American Association of People with Disabilities teamed up to release the 2020 Presidential Questionnaire on Disability Politics. The questionnaire covers a broad range of policies that are important to over 35 million eligible voters with disabilities.

Ahead of tonight’s debate, the following candidates have submitted responses:

AAPD will continue to post major party candidates’ responses, as well as track public statements on disability and when applicable, sponsorship of disability-related bills. You can find all of this information on their 2020 presidential election webpages. AAPD will post candidates’ responses on a rolling basis, and we will make sure to inform you when new information is available. 

[Read more…]

2020 Presidential Questionnaire on Disability Policies

Washington, D.C. –  The 2020 Presidential elections will have significant implications for 20 percent of the US population – people with disabilities. As we move towards Election Day, the American Association of People with Disabilities’ (AAPD) REV UP Campaign and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) have developed a Presidential Questionnaire on Disability Policies. Through their responses to this questionnaire, candidates will share their views and positions on key disability policy priorities.

“There will be over 35 million eligible voters with disabilities in 2020. We encourage all the Presidential candidates to engage the Disability vote,” said Maria Town, President & CEO of AAPD. “Our organizations are committed to empowering our community and speaking out about critical issues with the candidates.”

[Read more…]

A Dialogue with Leaders in the Disability Community on Voting Accessibility and Security

By Patrick Leahy, Senior Advisor, Election Assistance Commission (EAC)

This past weekend on Sunday, July 21, just days ahead of the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EAC’s four Commissioners met with members of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) for a pre-conference session on accessibility and security in the voting process. Commissioners also heard from attendees about a variety of other election access needs for voters with disabilities.

NCIL is a national cross-disability and grassroots organization representing thousands of individuals with disabilities and the independent living centers that serve them. The organization’s leaders and advocates came together during this segment to hear from EAC’s Chairwoman Christy McCormick, Vice Chair Benjamin Hovland, and Commissioners Thomas Hicks and Donald Palmer.

At the session, the Commissioners led a dialogue on the voting rights of people with disabilities and how to ensure security measures do not infringe on those rights. Commissioners met with more than 50 voters with disabilities and received invaluable feedback about their experiences and needs. As the Commission fulfills its responsibilities under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), such outreach is critical to updating EAC tools and resources. This is why the EAC has made it a priority to lead interactive discussions at national conferences for people with disabilities for each of the past five years. Read more at eac.gov.

EAC Commissioners address the audience at NCIL's 2019 Annual Conference on Independent Living
EAC Commissioners address the audience at NCIL’s 2019 Annual Conference on Independent Living

Access to the Absentee Voting Process: The Need for Accessible Electronic Ballot Delivery Systems

By Kenia Flores, NCIL Summer Policy Intern

Photo of Kenia Flores
Photo of Kenia Flores

Voting is one of our fundamental rights as citizens of the United States, and it is an essential element to our democratic framework of government. However, many individuals, particularly those belonging to marginalized groups, are often denied the right to vote.

Most eighteen-year-olds anticipate their eighteenth birthday because they are eager to become a legal adult. However, I eagerly anticipated my eighteenth birthday because I knew I would be voting in my first presidential election. In the 2016 presidential election, twenty-five percent of ballots were cast by mail, and that percentage is expected to increase with many states converting to vote-by-mail entirely. Although vote-by-mail may have its advantages, the process often excludes people with disabilities.

My roommate Claudia and I decided to make the two-hour drive home from our university, located in a different state, to vote at our local polling place. I was able to vote privately and independently at my polling place as guaranteed to me by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. I left my polling place feeling empowered with a smile on my face and an “I voted” sticker in hand.

Two years later, my experience voting in the 2018 midterm election was drastically different. I am unable to drive, so I was not able to make the two-hour drive home. I could not have utilized public transportation options because it would have meant a 10-hour round-trip commute, forcing me to miss classroom instruction. Thus, my only option was to request an absentee ballot.

[Read more…]

Today! Learn about Campaign Operations with Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities

Do you want to learn how to run a successful campaign for elected office? Sign up today to join us for the second part of a five-week boot camp on core skills for running for office. Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities features five expert political consultants who will tell you everything you need to know about kick starting your campaign, crafting your message as a candidate, communicating with voters, selecting campaign staff, and fundraising. It is ideal for the first-time candidate, as well as anybody who wants to support candidates with disabilities as campaign staff, future campaign managers, or volunteers. This training is non-partisan and open to all!

At 3:00 Eastern today, we will be continuing the series with Stefan Walker, Political Consultant of The Politics Store, who will present on Campaign Operations 101. Stefan will discuss what you need to know about hiring a campaign manager and what staff is necessary for your campaign. In addition, you will learn about the role of a field coordinator and the importance of having a volunteer coordinator, and will learn about other campaign roles that may be filled by staff or volunteers. There will be lots of time for the Stefan to answer all your questions related to campaign operations!

[Read more…]

Registration Still Open & Recording Available for Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities!

Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities kicked off on Monday, June 3 with the first-ever run for office training for people with disabilities who are interested in running for elected office! Did you happen to miss it? If so, make sure to head over to www.ncil.org/elevate to watch the recording of the 90-minute webinar, led by Neal Carter, Principal, Nu View Consulting and Atima Omara, Principal, Omara Strategy Group. In this webinar, Neal and Atima covered the basics for launching a campaign and provided an overview of essential campaign skills like messaging and fundraising. These skills will be covered more deeply in the remaining four webinars.

[Read more…]

Starting Today! Learn to Run for Office with Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities

Do you want to learn how to run a successful campaign for elected office? Sign up before noon Eastern to join us today for the first part of a five-week boot camp on core skills for running for office. Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities features five expert political consultants who will tell you everything you need to know about kickstarting your campaign, crafting your message as a candidate, communicating with voters, selecting campaign staff, and fundraising. It is ideal for the first-time candidate, as well as anybody who wants to support candidates with disabilities as campaign staff, future campaign managers, or volunteers. This training is non-partisan and open to all!

[Read more…]

Course Descriptions Now Available for Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities

Course Descriptions Now Available for Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities

Course descriptions are now available for Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities. This five-week webinar series will teach participants the skills they need to run a campaign for local elected office, including creating operations, communications, fundraising, and voter outreach. This course is open to everyone, and we particularly encourage multi-marginalized people with disabilities to join us as we learn from five experienced political consultants of color about how to run for office.

Participants will be sent presentation materials in accessible formats 48 hours before each webinar. If you need additional accommodations or have questions, please contact Sarah Blahovec, Disability Vote Organizer, at sarah@ncil.org or 202-207-0334 ext. 1103.

Visit ncil.org/elevate to register and find updates as the series approaches.

[Read more…]