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

NCIL Letter to Vice President Pence on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity

On May 16th, NCIL penned this letter to Vice President Pence on its concerns on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, and asked that the Commission examines issues of inaccessibility and vote suppression in the election system.

Dear Vice President Pence,

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingOn May 11, President Trump issued an executive order establishing the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. We stand in solidarity with the rest of the civil rights community in expressing concern that the commission’s expressed goals of examining dubious claims of voter fraud could further disenfranchise people of color and people with disabilities. NCIL hopes that the commission will instead explore the well-documented issues of voting inaccessibility and vote suppression that have made exercising the right to vote more difficult for marginalized communities.

NCIL urges the commission to focus on these issues:

  • Accessibility of polling places and voting equipment on Election Day is still not equitable for people with disabilities. According to a study by Rutgers University of the 2012 election, “30.1% of voters with disabilities reported difficulty in voting at a polling place…compared to 8.4% of voters without disabilities.”
  • With the increasing use of the internet, the way that people learn about and participate in elections is changing rapidly. Unfortunately, many election information and voter registration websites are not accessible to people with disabilities, especially people who are blind or low vision, have cognitive disabilities, or have mobility disabilities.
  • Voter ID laws, which have been created for the alleged purpose of upholding voting integrity, actually suppress the vote for marginalized populations. For example,
    • Over 7% of people with disabilities do not have a government-issued current photo ID. Obtaining an ID is particularly difficult for some older Americans and people with disabilities that prevent them from driving, as they are unable to travel to obtain the ID.
    • According to the American Civil Liberties Union, people of color disproportionately lack government-issued photo ID, with up to 25% of African Americans lacking an ID, as opposed to 8% of Whites. There is a higher rate of disability in communities of color, so disabled people of color risk being barred from the voting process in a number of ways.

In an April 2017, the Republican-nominated chair of the Election Assistance Commission, Matthew Masterson stated that voter fraud is “not widespread. It’s not an epidemic.” The current goals of the bipartisan commission, which will be chaired by you, the Vice President, and vice chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, are concerning to NCIL because they focus on examining theories on voting fraud, many of which have already been disproven.

Voting is essential to our democracy, and there are still many barriers standing in the way of equal voting access for all Americans. Laws born from concern about voter fraud have further complicated the right to vote for marginalized communities while showing little evidence of necessity for those laws in the first place.

We urge the commission to focus on the issues of voting accessibility. Inaccessibility of voting for people with disabilities has been well studied by the Election Assistance Commission, the Government Accountability Office, and many other groups, and we are in desperate need of the government to take next steps based on these reports to improve accessibility of the voting process, from registration, to voter information, all the way through Election Day. An accessible fair voting process is essential our democracy and to securing the right to vote for all American citizens.

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