Persons with disabilities face stigma and barriers during elections

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For me, voting was easy. I became a permanent absentee voter decades ago because my fall work schedule conflicted with being home on Election Day – it’s even easier with more options now .

In early October of this year, I received a postcard from my county’s Registrar of Electors telling me to expect my mail-in ballot in 10 days. My newsletter arrived in mid-October and a week later I received a postcard telling me it had been sent.

My ballot contained information about alternative voting options: in person (including curbside), using personal assistive technology (remote accessible voting, especially useful for people who cannot use paper ballots or come to the polls in person), and who to turn to in my ballot (drive-in drop boxes, unstamped mail or at the polls). I get an SMS notification when my ballot is received by the county and another when my ballot is counted or if it cannot be counted, so I have time to use another method of voting .

I’m not special – every voter in California has had these options since universal mail-in ballots were implemented during the pandemic. But even before that, postal voting was open to anyone on request, with no special permission or medical reason required.

US voters with disabilities face a maze of new restrictions

Iin late January, a Wisconsin judge ruled that there were only two ways someone in the state could return a mail-in ballot: they could either place it in the mail or return it in person to their local clerk. […]

Nearly 18 million Americans with disabilities voted in the 2020 election, a six-point increase from 2016, according to a recent Rutgers University study. Voters with disabilities were almost twice as likely report a difficulty vote as voters without disabilities in 2020. A suffrage law provision states that “Any voter who requires assistance to vote because of blindness, disability or inability to read or write may be assisted by a person of their choice, other than the employer of the voter. elector or the agent of that employer or the officer or agent of the trade union of electors.

In Alabama, Republicans curbside voting prohibited, a practice used by voters who cannot enter the polling station due to a disability. A new Texas law limited the assistance voters could get at the polls and required those who provided assistance to take an oath. In Florida, a new law makes it more difficult to request a mail-in ballot and it is now illegal to return more than two ballots that do not belong to themselves or a family.

Other unique obstacles are two ideological beliefs about who should be eligible to vote: “One is the idea that people with disabilities should not be allowed to vote. The other is the idea that voting processes should be at least somewhat difficult and demanding, to ensure that only the most informed and engaged citizens vote. “This belief hides a very pernicious idea of ​​who deserves to vote,” says (Lilian Aluri, #RevUp Vote Campaign Coordinator at American Association of the Disabled ), “and is rooted in thinly masked racism and ableism”.

Reaction to Fetterman’s debate reveals stigma facing contestants with disabilities

The debate not only highlighted Fetterman’s cognitive challenges and the need for accommodation, disability advocates say, but it exposed the inherent ableism of the electoral process and the extra scrutiny candidates with disabilities receive compared to their non-disabled counterparts. […]

A analysis of more than 36,000 politicians between 2013 and 2017 found that although the number of elected officials with disabilities has increased, they are still underrepresented in politics – accounting for 12% of politicians at the local level and only around 6% of politicians at the level at the state and federal level. By comparison, federal estimates suggest that approximately 26 percent of American adults have a disability. […]

The debate format also involved quick questions and 15- and 30-second response times that at times seemed difficult for Fetterman to manage. On Twitter, a number of people said that watching the debate made them more aware of how the debate process was skewed in favor of non-disabled people. […]

“Overtime is an extremely common accommodation for people with disabilities,” tweeted Sara Luterman, Autistic 19th Journalist. “The debate was essentially about what happens when disability is not adequately taken into account. I don’t think that’s an accurate or fair reflection on Fetterman’s suitability for office.

Fetterman’s use of captions common in stroke recovery, experts say

While neurological experts said they couldn’t offer a specific diagnosis about Fetterman’s health, they did note that closed captions are a common tool for people with auditory processing or hearing problems, conditions that have nothing to do with global intelligence.

“It’s not about intelligence, it’s not about cognition, but unfortunately how we get in and out of information tends to impact how people perceive it,” said Brooke Hatfield, associate director of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. .

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