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

Disability Voting Rights

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities

People with disabilities are one fifth of the population. Many of us are great leaders in our communities and our professions due to skills that we’ve developed advocating for ourselves and others: we’re adaptable, resilient, creative, and great at problem solving.

Perhaps you have been thinking about how to take your leadership to a new level. You’ve considered running for local school board, city council, or another local leadership position but you don’t know where to start, and the idea of running a political campaign is intimidating. If you’re ready to elevate your leadership to elected office, this training series is for you!

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Action Alert: Tell Us About Your Voting Experiences

Have you experienced access barriers as a voter with a disability in previous elections? NCIL is working with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs to learn more about voters with disabilities’ experience with voting, particularly any access barriers they have encountered that have made it difficult or impossible to cast a ballot. These barriers include but are not limited to physically inaccessible polling places, difficult interactions with poll workers, and problems with casting a ballot on voting equipment. In addition, we are also looking to hear from voters who have had difficulty registering to vote or navigating their local election office’s website and finding important voter information.

If you have experienced a challenge or a barrier while voting, please contact Disability Vote Organizer Sarah Blahovec at sarah@ncil.org or 202-207-0334 extension 1103 to share your story. 

NCIL to Launch Campaign Skills Webinar Series

Are you considering running for a local elected office but don’t know where to start? Do you have the drive to run for school board or city council, but you’re intimidated by the prospect of fundraising or concerned about potential access barriers? You’re not alone. Although one in six voters has a disability, there are surprisingly few resources and programs dedicated to teaching people with disabilities how to run for elected office. To that end, with the financial support of the American Association of People with Disabilities and the Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award, NCIL is developing a series of accessible online campaign training workshops to be held in late spring and early summer of 2019. 

This webinar series will train participants on the basics skills they need to run their first political campaign, including operations, field organizing, communications, and fundraising. It will be conducted from a cross-disability perspective, with insights on how to tailor campaign operations to work with your access needs, as well as how to talk about your disability authentically within the scope of your campaign. NCIL has partnered with NuView Consulting, a disability-owned, minority-owned consulting firm which has over 14 years of experience in political campaigns of all sizes. These training workshops will be intentionally led by campaign experts of color who have extensive experience with underrepresented communities. 

The National Council on Independent Living is a 501c3 nonprofit and a non-partisan organization, and workshops are for educational purposes only. NCIL does not provide support or endorsement to any candidates for elected office. 

Registration and additional information will be available shortly. These webinars are offered free of charge to NCIL members. However, we always welcome donations to support NCIL’s work around voting rights and running for office.  You can donate through our donation page.  Check ‘Yes’ under “I would like to donate to direct my money to a specific fund” and select “Voting Rights & Civic Engagement” from the drop down menu. If you would like receive more information about these webinars and other NCIL offerings, become a NCIL member today.

Achieving Accessibility for Election Websites and Sample Ballots: A Toolkit for Disability Advocates

Is your local election office’s website accessible to voters with disabilities? Election office websites are hubs of information for voters, providing pertinent information throughout the election process, such as what’s on your ballot and where your polling place is located. For voters with disabilities, accessing this information is especially critical as they look for information on accessible voting options or how to advocate for removal of access barriers that they experience at a polling place. Unfortunately, even though these websites are mandated by law to be accessible to people with disabilities, they often have significant access barriers that impact people with a range of disabilities.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent Living“Achieving Accessibility for Election Websites and Sample Ballots: A Toolkit for Disability Advocates” is a toolkit to help local advocates not only understand the access barriers on election websites and sample ballots, but also help them form a strategy and approach local election officials to remove these barriers and make voter information accessible to voters with disabilities. The toolkit provides information and resources that help both advocates and election officials understand the user experience from the perspective of users with a range of disabilities, including vision, mobility, and cognitive disabilities, and strategies to help local advocates engage election officials in efficient and effective discussion. Advocates can use this guide to begin building a relationship with election officials not only to address website access barriers, but to address other access barriers in the voting process to make the fundamental right to vote accessible to all American citizens.

“Achieving Accessibility for Election Websites and Sample Ballots: A Toolkit for Disability Advocates” is available in PDF, Word, and plain text.

Your Election Day Voting Resources

It’s Election Day and all around the country, voters like you are making a difference.  Voting is a way for you to make your voice heard on issues that matter to you – issues like healthcare, education, and more.

Voting can be tricky when you have a disability.  That’s why we put together this list of resources so that you can exercise your right to vote today and cast your ballot privately and independently.

Getting to the polls:

  • Uber and Lyft are providing free or discounted rides to the polls, along with several bike companies, scooter companies, and public transportation systems.
  • Carpool Vote is a service that matches drivers with voters in need of a ride. You can request an adapted van with a lift through this service, mark that you will be traveling with a service animal, and/or request any other accommodations (such as help folding equipment).

At your polling place:

After voting: