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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Disability Voting Rights

Information Alert: Executive Order on Promoting Additional Access to Voting

This past Sunday, President Biden signed a new voting access executive order entitled “Executive Order on Promoting Additional Access to Voting”. The Executive Order was released to coincide with the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when civil rights activists, beginning their march from Selma to Montgomery, were brutally beaten by State troopers while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The executive order (EO) aims to expand access to voting in a number of ways, including:

  • Giving the heads of every Federal agency 200 days to evaluate and create a plan to promote voter registration and voter participation (Section 3);
  • Requiring the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to coordinate efforts to improve and modernize Federal websites and digital services that provide election and voting information, including ensuring accessibility to people with disabilities and people with limited English proficiency (Section 3); and
  • Requiring the General Services Administration (GSA) to coordinate with the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and other agencies, as well as seek input from affected stakeholders (including civil rights advocates, disability rights advocates, and Tribal Nations) to modernize and improve the Vote.gov (Section 5) website.
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Election Assistance Commission Voting Guidelines Fail Disability Community

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is disappointed by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) recent adoption of the Voluntary Voting System Guideline (VVSG) 2.0 Requirements. The adopted VVSG 2.0 requirements ignored the recommendations made by the disability community to:

  • ensure accessible remote voting,
  • prohibit segregated in-person voting,
  • and require a reasonable voting system upgrade schedule so that voters with disabilities are not expected to use old, inaccessible ballot marking devices for decades to come.

As a result, VVSG 2.0 does not ensure a private and independent ballot for all voters in a non-discriminatory manner. 

The extensive security requirements in VVSG 2.0 require the use of a voter-verified paper printed ballot. The requirements also limit remote voting to blank ballot delivery. These requirements create major barriers to ensuring accessibility for all in-person and remote voting options. 

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Action Alert: Ask Your Representatives to Oppose H.R. 1’s Paper Ballot Mandate

In January, Congressional Democrats introduced H.R. 1, the For the People Act. This broad legislation addresses many areas of democracy reform, including voting rights, election security, and voting accessibility. While there are many positive provisions in the legislation, the National Council on Independent Living and other disability rights organizations are concerned about a requirement for voter-verified paper ballots. Paper ballots are not accessible to many voters with disabilities and can limit the right to a private and independent ballot.

Last week, NCIL joined 19 other national disability rights organizations in signing onto a statement by the National Disability Rights Network expressing concerns over a paper ballot mandate. This statement laid out the disability community’s concerns that the paper ballot mandate would:

  • End all voting system innovation and advancement to produce a fully accessible voting system that provides enhanced security without relying on inaccessible paper
  • Limit voters with disabilities’ federal right to privately and independently verify and cast their ballots
  • Segregate voters with disabilities

Read the full statement: “Disability Community Fears Paper Ballot Mandate Will Hurt Voters with Disabilities

H.R. 1 Section 1502 requires that voting machines use “an individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballot.” It also requires that voters are given the option to mark their ballot by hand, which further limits the availability of ballot marking devices for people with disabilities. This will further segregate voters with disabilities who must use ballot-marking devices. Furthermore, it will increase the likelihood that poll workers will not be properly trained on how to use ballot-marking devices. Poll workers will also be expected to decide who is “disabled enough” to use a ballot-marking device, although they do not have the legal right or qualifications to make that decision.

Take Action: Contact your Representative to tell them to oppose the paper ballot mandate in H.R. 1, as it will limit disabled voters’ right to a private and independent ballot.

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It’s Election Day. Go Vote!

We have compiled some information and resources to help you get #VoteReady.

Same-Day Voter Registration 

Although voter registration deadlines in many states have now passed, 22 states and Washington, DC offer same-day voter registration. Find out if your state has same-day voter registration

Vote Planning and Know Your Rights Resources

1. NCIL Plan Your Vote 2020 

2. Brink Election Guide is a free app that helps you find out where to vote, who and what you’re voting for, and everything you need to make Election Day a breeze.

3. ACLU Know Your Rights 

4. ASAN Easy Read Toolkit: “Your Vote Counts: A Self-Advocate’s Guide to Voting in the U.S.” 

5. “Vote: It’s Your Right: A Guide to the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities” 

Election Protection and Protection and Advocacy Hotlines 

If you have questions about voting, or experience any issues while voting, there are several hotlines available to help answer all of our questions.

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Election Day is Less Than One Week Away! Are You Ready to Vote?

Election Day is less than one week away, and millions of Americans have already cast their ballots through early voting or voting by mail. This year, it is more important than ever to know your rights and have a plan. We have listed some resources and events to help you prepare for Election Day.

Plan Your Vote 2020 

NCIL, along with other members of the National Coalition on Accessible Voting, created “Plan Your Vote 2020,” a vote planning guide that walks you through every step of the voting process.

Brink Election Guide 

Brink Election Guide is a free app that helps you find out where to vote, who and what you’re voting for, and everything you need to make Election Day a breeze. This nonpartisan, accessible app is available on iOS and Android, and it was built by people with disabilities to provide all of the necessary information a voter needs to know. Brink provides completely non-partisan information designed to inform our users on the candidates running for office and other initiatives on the ballot. The app also provides a list of resources to help voters navigate any potential issues they face when voting.

SignVote Series: Election 2020 

SignVote is dedicated to informing and engaging deaf communities throughout the 2020 election by developing and sharing resources in ASL. They recently launched the second episode of the SignVote Series: Election 2020, where you can learn everything you need to know about making your voting plan. View SignVote’s “Your Plan to Vote”.

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Help Consumers Get #VoteReady this October

This week is National Voter Education Week, a civic holiday created to equip voters with the tools, information, and confidence they need to cast their ballots. With less than a month until the General Election, it is a great time to provide consumers with information and tools that they can use to prepare to vote.

NCIL has created resources to help Center for Independent Living (CIL) and Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) staff and consumers get ready to vote this year. The NCIL 2020 Voter Registration Toolkit provides you with information to conduct nonpartisan voter registration. Check to make sure that your state’s voter registration deadline hasn’t passed, or see if same-day voter registration is available in your state.

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Organizers Forum: Getting Out The Vote (in a Pandemic!)

Let’s make sure disabled people vote in this fall’s election! How do we do voter outreach during the pandemic? How do we ensure that disabled people CAN vote? What can we learn from other marginalized communities? 

  • Tuesday, September 15, 2020
  • 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Eastern (12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Central / 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Mountain / 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Pacific)
  • RSVP
  • Video link: https://zoom.us/j/158367875
  • Call-in: 1-929-205-6099, Meeting ID 158 367 875# or find your local number.

Speakers:

  • Dom Kelly, Fair Fight
  • Rachita Singh, American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Mike Dark, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform

Please join us! If you have questions or suggestions, please email jessica@sdaction.org.

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New Resource Available: NCIL Voter Registration Toolkit

Did you know that Centers for Independent Living (CILs) can participate in non-partisan voter registration? The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) encourages every Center for Independent Living to provide an opportunity to register to vote to their consumers. 

There is still plenty of time to register voters before the 2020 General Election. We have compiled some resources below to help Centers for Independent Living provide their consumers with the opportunity to register to vote. It also includes information on registration deadlines, guardianship rules, and voter ID laws. 

The NCIL Voter Registration Toolkit is available in PDF, Word, and plain text formats.

If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Blahovec, Voting Rights and Civic Engagement Organizer, at sarah@ncil.org or 202-207-0334 extension 1103. 

Submit Comments on Proposed Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 by Monday!

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) published proposed Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 (VVSG 2.0) for public comment. The VVSG are a set of specifications and requirements for voting systems that relate to things like basic functionality, accessibility, and security.

VVSG 2.0 proposes new national-level voting system standards, and upon review, it is clear that the changes in this version will harm disabled voters. Disabled voters are already facing an even greater risk of disenfranchisement as a result of the pandemic; we cannot allow standards to be put in place that would increase that risk. It is critical that we provide feedback!

Take Action: Submit Comments (Draft Provided)

NCIL has worked with a coalition of other disability rights organizations to draft comments. Many of our organizations, including NCIL, will also be submitting these comments individually. Please feel free to review these comments and use them as written or personalize them to create your own. You can also submit a simple comment saying you support NCIL’s comments.

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Donate Now to Close the Gap of People with Disabilities in Elected Office

A new study released by Rutgers University reveals that only 10.3 percent of elected officials have disabilities, compared with a rate of 15.7 percent in the overall studied population. That leaves a gap of over 5 percent between where elected representation of people with disabilities is and where we need it to be.

We want to close that gap. When our governments – large or small – don’t reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, democracy fails. Our governments need to be truly by the people, for the people – and that includes people with disabilities.

But we can’t close the gap without you. NCIL’s Elevate program is the first and only non-partisan program that trains people with disabilities to run for elected office. Our pilot program this past summer was a great success. Now we need your help to keep it going. Your support will help us run more webinars, hire more expert consultants, and reach more people with disabilities interested in running for office. Together, we can give people with disabilities the tools they need to run for office, win the race, and close the disability representation gap in elected office.

We can’t make change if we don’t have a seat at the table. Donate today to close the gap in political leadership for people with disabilities.