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

Gearing Up for the 2018 Midterms: Ballot Measures and Nonprofits

Do you know what will be on your ballot when you go to vote in November? It’s very likely that you’re prepared to vote for somebody to represent you in a legislative body on the local, state, or national level, like a member of the House of Representatives. But while you might be voting for one candidate or another, you might have something else to vote on show up on your ballot, something that doesn’t involve choosing a candidate to represent your interests. Many states have voters decide on ballot measures, which according to Bolder Advocacy, “initiate constitutional or legislative reform by proposing, placing on the ballot, and voting on statutes or constitutional amendments.” In 24 states, citizens may have the opportunity to vote directly on important policy issues, often including issues that impact people with disabilities, such as housing and transportation.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingOne high-profile ballot measure in the 2018 Midterms is Florida Ballot Amendment Four, the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative. This amendment reads: “This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.” Florida is only one of four states with a lifetime ban on voting for people with prior felony convictions, and this disenfranchises 1.4 million Florida voters. Higher numbers of people with disabilities and people of color are incarcerated, making this ballot amendment a disability rights and civil rights issue. NCIL supports this amendment, as it restores the responsibility of civic engagement and ensures equal access for Florida citizens. You can learn more at Florida Second Chances

If you’re part of a nonprofit organization, the good news is that there is clear guidance available on how you can help to educate your consumers about ballot measures that will appear on their ballot, and ballot measure advocacy is considered a first amendment right, so organizations can express an opinion on ballot measures. Nonprofit Vote says that a 501(c)3 may work for or against ballot questions up to normal lobbying limits. These lobbying limits vary based on which test your nonprofit uses to measuring its lobbying activity, the insubstantial part test or the 501(h) expenditure test. You can find out more about nonprofit ballot measure advocacy and these tests through Bolder Advocacy’s Ballot Measure Toolkit. Nonprofit Vote also has a guide on nonprofits and ballot measure advocacy.

NCIL encourages Centers for Independent Living and other organizations to read up on how they can participate in ballot measure advocacy and to add ballot measure education and advocacy to their Get Out The Vote plan for November 2018. If you have any questions or want more information, please contact Sarah Blahovec, Disability Vote Organizer, at sarah@ncil.org.

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