Thursday, September 20, 2012

Leading Disability Rights Group Says People with Disabilities Could Decide Election

For Immediate Release                            

Leading Disability Rights Group Says People with Disabilities Could Decide Election

WASHINGTON – The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) reported today on its multi-year, nationwide effort to increase the number of people with disabilities who vote on Election Day.

NDRN’s member agencies have been registering voters, educating people with disabilities about their voting rights, and working with election officials to improve the accessibility of polling places and equipment.

“It is our goal to ensure that every individual with a disability who can vote, is registered, knows their rights, and is able to cast a private and independent vote when they go to their polling place,” said Curt Decker, executive director of NDRN.

According to a recent study conducted at Rutgers University, 14.7 million Americans with a disability voted in the 2008 election, up from 10.9 million in 2000.  It is estimated there are approximately 35 million eligible voters with disabilities.

“People with disabilities and their families make up a huge block of voters,” said Decker. “Candidates should not underestimate the intense interest people with disabilities have in the outcome of this election.

“The economy, the government’s budget crisis, and looming cuts to programs critical to people with disabilities like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, could translate into record turnout.”  

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA), enacted October 26, 2002, gave individuals with disabilities the right to participate in elections as other voters do and to cast a private and independent ballot.  NDRN’s member agencies were authorized by HAVA to “ensure the full participation in the electoral process for individuals with disabilities, including registering to vote, casting a vote and accessing polling places" through a program called Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA).

“Since HAVA was enacted, we have seen dramatic increases in the number of voters with disabilities,” said Decker.  “We expect this work will lead to an even greater impact in 2012.”
The following are some of the activities in which the network is engaged:

  • ·         Surveying polling places to ensure accessible facilities are in place and filing complaints with state election boards when violations are identified.
  • ·         Producing voting rights videos and Public Service Announcements.
  • ·         Hosting voter forums for people with disabilities to discuss the election and hear from election officials.
  • ·         Conducting voter education trainings during which individuals with disabilities are registered to vote and can test voting machines
  • ·         Launching election hotlines that voters can use to report problems and seek assistance.
  • ·         Distributing flyers about state voter identification laws.
  • ·         Visiting facilities such as group homes, nursing homes, institutions, and schools to register and educate voters.
  • ·         Partnering with other organizations to conduct polling place accessibility checks and distribute information about voter rights.
  • ·         Creating downloadable polling place checklist for voters to bring with them to the polls. The checklist allows voters to determine whether barriers exist at their polling place and how to report them.
  • ·         Providing information on accessibility to county election commissioners

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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

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