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

Disability Voting Rights

One Week Away! Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities

Join us on Thursdays from October 14th to November 4th to learn the skills you need to run for elected office. Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities is a nonpartisan series of webinars bringing together campaign experts and elected officials to teach you how to run your first campaign. All webinars will have CART captioning and American Sign Language Interpreters.

If you cannot attend the live webinars, we will be recording and sharing each session. You will also have the opportunity to submit questions ahead of time so that we can answer them during the training.

You must be a member of NCIL to participate in this webinar series. Individual NCIL memberships are just $35 / year, and $10 / year for people ages 26 and under. NCIL does not turn anyone away for financial reasons. For dues waivers or reductions, contact Tim Fuchs at tim@ncil.org.

Course Schedule:

Introduction to Campaigns, Self and Opposition Research

Thursday, October 14, 2021

1:00 to 2:30 PM Eastern

Your Story. Your Campaign. Your Brand Online.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

3:30 to 5:00 PM Eastern

POWER Fundraising: 5 Keys to Raising Money Confidently and Effectively (Even If You’re a First-Time Candidate and Never Fundraised Before!)

Thursday, October 21, 2021

1:00 to 2:30 PM Eastern

Organizing Post Obama, Trump, and COVID

Thursday, October 21, 2021

3:30 to 5:00 PM Eastern

Harnessing Your Power to Advocate for Change

Thursday, October 28, 2021

1:00 to 2:30 PM Eastern

Fundamentals of Digital Media

Thursday, October 28, 2021

3:30 to 5:00 PM Eastern

Campaign Outreach Methods: Paid, Earned and Owned Media, Direct Mail, and Email Marketing

Thursday, November 4, 2021

1:00 to 2:30 PM Eastern

Thank you to our generous sponsors for making Elevate possible!

Run For Something Action Fund Logo

runforwhat.net

ActBlue Logo

Sign up for ActBlue

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Pennsylvania Representative Jessica Benham to Speak at Elevate 2021

The National Council on Independent Living is excited to announce our speakers and trainers for Elevate 2021! Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities will happen October 14th through November 4th, 2021. We will be joined by guest speakers including Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Pennsylvania State Representative Jessica Benham. We will also hear from many people with disabilities about their own experiences with running for office, working on a campaign, and organizing. We will hear from Vilissa Thompson of Ramp Your Voice, Dom Kelly of Fair Fight Action, Tory Cross of Be a Hero, Atima Omara of Omara Strategy Group, and many more!

Join us for seven 90-minute, nonpartisan webinars on campaign topics led by experienced campaign trainers and guest speakers. Each webinar will have CART captioning and American Sign Language interpreters.

Register for Elevate 2021

Elevate 2021 Course Schedule

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It’s National Disability Voter Registration Week!

The week of September 13-20, 2021 is National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW)! NDVRW was created by the REV UP Campaign to increase the political power of people with disabilities. The REV UP Campaign was created by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). NCIL is proud to be a partner organization for National Disability Voter Registration Week.

This week, Centers for Independent Living and disability rights organizations around the country will be celebrating NDVRW through events and activities to encourage people with disabilities to vote. There are many ways to get involved!

Check the National Disability Voter Registration Week calendar of events. Organizations around the country will be holding events to celebrate voting all week long. These events include local and state forums, training webinars, voter registration events, and more.

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From Voting Rights to Running for Office: Disability and the Political Process with NCIL’s Executive Director

Dear NCIL Members and Friends,

I was the first openly autistic individual to run for state legislature in US history. I was also the first state legislative candidate to bring up the issue of using campaign funds to pay for caregiver expenses. My Center for Independent Living was in Iowa, where the national political process starts. It starts when the Presidential primaries are held. Voters in Iowa have big meetings and decide on who they think each party should select as their Presidential candidate. These big meetings are called caucuses.  Disabled people in Iowa were not able to participate in these meetings. Our CIL organized meetings so people with all types of disabilities could be a part of the caucuses. 

All this is to say, I came to the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) with a deep commitment to ensuring that disabled people can participate in all political processes.  

The cornerstone of the political process is the polling place. I am proud that NCIL has, time and time again, shown its support for ensuring that all eligible voters have access and ability to vote on or by election day. 

NCIL operates a subcommittee that focuses specifically on voter rights.  NCIL has an employee who works on projects specific to voting rights. NCIL recently joined several other disability organizations in signing on to a letter authored by the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) in support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. From the letter:

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; 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… 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.

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the National Association of Councils for Developmental Disabilities (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 letter calls out the actions of state legislatures on voting issues. There was a Supreme Court decision in 2013 that made the actions of these states possible. That case was Shelby County v. Holder. It reversed the federal law that made sure states did not discourage people from voting. These protections were especially important for disabled voters, and Black and brown voters. The letter NCIL signed supports the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.  

NCIL’s commitment to ensuring participation of disabled people in the political process extends beyond the polling place and onto the ballot itself thanks to Elevate, the landmark training program designed specifically for candidates with disabilities, designed and led by people with disabilities. Elevate has been a part of NCIL portfolio for over two years. Elevate’s commitment to operating at the intersection of race and disability has been a key part of the program since day one. Elevate kicks off its relaunch in October. Spread the word. If you are a disabled person who’s interested in running for office, register! It’s FREE for NCIL individual members so be on the lookout for further details from us.

In Solidarity,

Reyma McCoy McDeid

This statement is written in plain language.

A Right to Vote and A Right to Health for All: Co-liberation as the Only Path Forward

By Maddie Offstein, NCIL Summer Policy Intern

Although the U.S. has formally abolished the Jim Crow laws and poll taxes, many states are ramping up efforts to revisit their laws on voting policies and procedures after the 2020 Presidential election and creating significant barriers for many in participating in future elections. Since start of the new year alone, 18 states have enacted 30 new laws that restrict access to the ballot. Most noteworthy is the successfully passed legislation in Georgia, a state whose presidential election results were decided by a mere 11,779 votes. The law, S.B.202, includes 16 key provisions that either restrict the right to vote for some Georgia residents or transfer power from elections officials to state legislators. The major changes to state voting requirements are as follows: a shortened time period to request absentee ballots, stricter ID requirements for absentee ballots, a significant reduction in the number of ballot drop boxes (with an additional requirement that they are placed inside frequently inaccessible buildings), an almost complete elimination of mobile voting centers, and misdemeanor charges for those who offer food or water to those waiting in long polling lines. These changes will have the impact of curtailing voting access for disabled, low-income, and racially marginalized people – so egregiously that the Justice Department is suing the state on the grounds that Republican lawmakers pushed a bill through the State legislature with an intent to deny Black voters equal access to the ballot. In addition to many civil rights groups, disability rights-focused groups such as The Arc Georgia, Georgia ADAPT, and the Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO) have joined the case and added a complaint that S.B. 202 violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is the first-time disability rights organizations have joined, as plaintiffs, a major voting rights lawsuit.

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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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