"Vote as if your life depends upon it, because it does.” – Justin Dart
September 23, 2014 – Washington, DC – National Voter Registration Day, which is observed Tuesday, September 23, serves as a reminder that Americans have a privilege many others do not yet have—the right to vote. It also serves as a reminder that voting is a privilege far too many people in the United States, including people with disabilities, are still denied or fail to take advantage of.
At a NCD policy forum held April 23, 2013 on Capitol Hill, former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) expressed the impact that the lack of accessibility had in the 2000 elections. “Twenty-one million people with disabilities did not vote,” said Dodd. “That made the disabled communities the single largest demographic group of nonvoters in the United States of America. At that time, only 16 percent of polling places were physically accessible. And not one, not one of the nearly 500 polling locations which the General Accounting Office (GAO) visited on Election Day in 2000, had special ballots adapted for blind voters.”
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found in 2008, only 27 percent of polling places were barrier-free. In fact, the Federal Election Commission reports that, in violation of state and federal laws, more than 20,000 polling places across the nation are inaccessible, depriving Americans with disabilities of their fundamental right to vote.
The scope of such findings is substantial. Figures recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that the population of Americans with disabilities has risen in recent years to 56.7 million – that’s 18.7 percent of our population. Of the 17 percent of voting-age Americans who are 65 years or older, at least 36 percent identify as disabled.
As we recognize National Voter Registration Day on September 23, NCD encourages voters with disabilities to register to vote, and to exercise that hard earned right at the ballot box each election.
In addition, NCD urges the Administration and Congress to take steps to ensure that states do not place undue burdens which disenfranchise voters – including those with disabilities – like requiring photo identification, repealing same-day registration, requiring proof of citizenship, reducing early voting sites and/or early voting schedules, and limiting the restoration of voting rights.
“NCD calls on Independent Living Centers, State Independent Living Councils, those conducting youth leadership forums, protection and advocacy organizations, and activist groups across the nation to make voter registration a priority – including registration drives at conferences and events – between now and the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in July 2015,” said Rebecca Cokley, NCD Executive Director. “The constitutional right to vote is an invaluable cornerstone of civic participation in a democracy. One that should never be taken for granted. Registering to vote is one way we can ensure that this treasured principle and the fights which helped guarantee them are honored.”
To get a copy of NCD’s 2013 report “Experience of Voters with Disabilities in the 2012 Election Cycle” go to: /publications/2013/10242013/