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

Disability Voting Rights

Disability Rights Organizations Join the National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day

May 8, 2021

Washington, D.C. – Today, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) will participate in the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Day of Action in support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Following the record-breaking turnout in the 2020 elections, state legislatures across America have released an offensive onslaught of undemocratic legislation designed to specifically suppress the vote of voters with disabilities, voters of color, and youth voters. 

These actions were made possible beginning in 2013 when the United States Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 in its Shelby County v. Holder decision. Prior to 2013, jurisdictions were subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the VRA and jurisdictions with known discriminatory practices were required to seek approval before enacting voting changes. In the Shelby County ruling when the Supreme Court struck down the primary avenue to determine which states require preclearance, it immediately freed jurisdictions with known discriminatory practices to change how their elections are administered without the voter protections offered by federal preclearance. Voters across the country are negatively impacted by new barriers created after the Shelby County decision. Following the enactment of strict voter identification laws, voter purges, and polling place closures, not all voices are being heard on Election Day, and worse, they are being deliberately silenced.

For the past several years, Congress has introduced legislation that would restore the preclearance provision of the VRA, including the Voting Rights Advancement Act, recently renamed as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4). AAPD, NACDD, NCIL and NDRN strongly urge Congress to protect and restore voting rights in America through the enactment of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The VRA protections are needed as much now as they were almost 60 years ago. We urge Congress to take swift action to ensure that Americans will not experience another election without the crucial protections of the Voting Rights Act.

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The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the over 61 million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation. To learn more, visit the AAPD Web site: www.aapd.com.   

The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) is the national association for the 56 Councils on Developmental Disabilities (DD Councils) across the United States and its territories. The DD Councils receive federal funding to support programs that promote self-determination, integration, and inclusion for all people in the United States with developmental disabilities.  Please check out www.onevotenow.org for NACDD’s work on voting.

The National Council on Independent Living is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of organizations and individuals including: individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States. To learn more, visit www.ncil.org

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 To learn more, visit www.ndrn.org.    

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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