This week (July 11-15) is the inaugural National Disability Voter Registration Week, an effort coordinated by the REV UP campaign (which stands for Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!). Since one in five Americans has a disability – a community that spans across all genders, races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities – this week is relevant for everyone. As the campaign explains:
“There are nearly 30 million people with disabilities eligible to vote when registered. This number does not even include ‘the ripple effect’ of family, friends, and service professionals who will vote in-line with disability interests. During National Disability Voter Registration Week, REV UP Campaigns around the country will make a concerted effort to get more people with disabilities registered to vote, educate voters about issues and candidates, promote turnout of voters with disabilities across the country, engage candidates and the media on disability issues, and protect eligible voters’ right to participate in elections.”
The campaign’s website has at least 10 ways to get involved and – while it may be too late to organize a rally or host a workshop – there are still ways to participate. Here are three:
- Get involved on social media. Provide your followers with information about registering to vote and ask them to commit to voting this November. Click here to download sample social media messages to share throughout the week.
- Share these flyers (pdf and png) – online and in person – to get the word out about National Disability Voter Registration Week.
- Send out a press release to let your community know that you’re participating in the week and explain why it’s important. Click here to download a sample release.
Protecting the right to vote for people with disabilities has been part of federal law for quite some time – it just hasn’t always received as much attention. According to the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN):
The Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 and the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) are commonly associated with discrimination based on race/ethnicity and language proficiency, the voter demographic for which the legislation was primarily intended. Yet, both significant pieces of voting rights legislation include provisions specific to people with disabilities:
Most notably, it is actually Section 208 of the original Voting Rights Act that states “any voter who requires assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write may be given assistance by a person of the voter’s choice, other than the voter’s employer or agent of that employer or officer or agent of the voter’s union.”
The Voting Rights Advancement Act, if passed, will also require that jurisdictions publicly notice all changes to voting laws that happen within 180 days before an election and that notice be “in a format that is…accessible to voters with disabilities, including voters who have low vision or are blind.”
That proposed legislation is currently stalled in Congress because, more than a year after its introduction, the Republican chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees refuse to hold hearings.