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

What Will You Do on November 4th?

by Kathy Hoell, Chair, NCIL Voting Rights Task Force

A lot is at stake in this election. As leaders in the Independent Living Movement, you of course will vote! But just voting is not enough. As leaders, you have a responsibility to engage your consumers, friends, and family members in the election. As an employee of a Center for Independent Living, you can develop and conduct nonpartisan voter education activities. These can include registering people to vote, educating people about our concerns and issues, or conducting phone banks. It is predicted that this off-year election will have a low turnout compared to a presidential election. Many people with disabilities who voted in 2012 will not vote this year unless they are asked to. Paraquad, Inc. the CIL of St. Louis, MO has done phone banking for years. It is the most-effective tool for increasing the disability vote.

An effective phone bank is made up of two steps. The first is to call and speak to all consumers, friends, and allies (leaving a voicemail message is not effective). When you reach the person, ask if they plan to vote on November 4th. Make sure they know where to vote and if they know what time of the day they plan on voting. The second step begins the night before and throughout Election Day: call everyone who said they would vote and remind them.

Another option for advocates is to volunteer for the candidate of your choice. Volunteering in an election campaign is an important way to build a relationship with those elected officials whose decisions affect our lives. It may impact their decisions in the future if they know people with disabilities. Some ways in which you can effectively volunteer are: going to candidate events and cheering the candidate on, putting a bumper sticker on your wheelchair or car if you have one, putting a yard sign on your lawn or in your window, working at a candidate phone bank, or canvassing for a candidate door-to-door. Your candidate will probably have many other opportunities – ask how you can help.

Some of us take Election Day off and volunteer on that day when candidates need the greatest number of volunteers. Being near a polling place and encouraging people to vote for your candidate, or holding up your candidate’s signs on busy street corners are just a few of the many jobs campaigns have for volunteers on election day. Remember – you cannot conduct partisan activities while working, but as an American citizen and a leader, you can volunteer for the candidates of your choice.

Lastly, you should be thinking about the next election and either running for office yourself or encouraging a colleague in your community to run for office.

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