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It’s National Disability Voter Registration Week!

By Mary Kay Rizzolo, CQL President and CEO

This week kicks off National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW). From July 13, 2020 through July 17, 2020, organizations and advocates across the United States are ramping up efforts to help people with disabilities register to vote. Through efforts like the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)’s REV UP! Campaign, and #CripTheVote people can find information, resources, and toolkits to promote registration and voting by people with disabilities.

Registration and Voting for People With Disabilities

Participation in elections can make a big impact. Despite this, in the 2016 elections the voter registration rate was 2% lower for people with disabilities compared to people without disabilities (Schur & Kruse, n.d.). Then, the gap continues on election day with the turnout rate being 6% lower for people with disabilities (Schur & Kruse, n.d.). Researchers have found that if people with disabilities voted at the same rate as those without disabilities, there would be more than 2 million additional voters (Schur & Kruse, n.d.).

People with disabilities are important constituents who are capable of and interested in voting. However, they face many barriers including inaccessibility and a lack of supports. In addition, we’ve found in Personal Outcome Measures® data that a number of factors are tied to disparities in voting – where more organizational supports are needed.

Disparities In Exercising Voting Rights

  • People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are 2 times less likely to exercise voting rights compared to people with other disabilities.
  • People who live in state-operated Intermediate Care Facilities for Developmental Disabilities (ICF/DDs) are 8 times less likely to exercise voting rights compared to people who live in their own homes.
  • People who primarily communicate through communication devices are 4.5 times less likely to exercise voting rights than people who primarily use verbal communication.
  • People with any type of guardianship (i.e., assisted decision-making, full guardianship) are all less likely to exercise voting rights than people with independent decision-making.

It’s important that human service organizations, advocacy groups, and others are aware of, and responsive to, disparities in the civic engagement of people with disabilities.

Improving Voter Registration of People With Disabilities

Our research shows that when people are provided with supports, they are twice as likely to exercise voting rights. There are many ways to assist people with disabilities in registering to vote and participating in elections. Below are just some examples of what support providers can do to advance these efforts.

Resources & Information:

  • Through the GoVoter project created by SABE, voters with disabilities will find accessible toolkits and resources about voting and elections.
  • On the ‘How to Register to Vote’ website, visitors can access information about both online and mail-in registration forms, along with additional guidance and deadlines.
  • Nonprofit VOTE shares a robust library factsheets, videos, webpages, and checklists for increasing voter knowledge and engagement.
  • The National Disability Rights Network offers numerous resources for improving access and involvement of people with disabilities in elections.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lists the federal laws that protect the rights of voters with disabilities from registration through election day.

Human service organizations and support staff play a pivotal role in increasing the registration of people with disabilities. Please use this week (and beyond) to identify steps to advance the civic engagement of people receiving services.

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Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.