the advocacy monitor

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

Disability Voting Rights

Center for American Progress Releases Report “Increasing Voter Participation in America”

On July 11th, the Center for American (CAP) released a comprehensive report regarding voting participation in America, the conditions that are contributing to low voter turnout, and the tools and initiatives states can use to increase voter participation. This report looks recognizes the barriers and conditions that exist for many populations including the disability community, communities of color, young people, low-income Americans, and formerly incarcerated persons.   [Read more…]

U.S. Election Assistance Commission Reflects on Town Hall at National Disability Rights Network Conference

On June 26th, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission published a blog about their experience holding a town hall at the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. At the town hall, people with disabilities shared their experience and feedback on voting with EAC Chairman Tom Hicks and Vice Chair Christy McCormick. According to the EAC, voters shared feedback concerning:  [Read more…]

Gearing Up for the 2018 Midterms: Ballot Measures and Nonprofits

Do you know what will be on your ballot when you go to vote in November? It’s very likely that you’re prepared to vote for somebody to represent you in a legislative body on the local, state, or national level, like a member of the House of Representatives. But while you might be voting for one candidate or another, you might have something else to vote on show up on your ballot, something that doesn’t involve choosing a candidate to represent your interests. Many states have voters decide on ballot measures, which according to Bolder Advocacy, “initiate constitutional or legislative reform by proposing, placing on the ballot, and voting on statutes or constitutional amendments.” In 24 states, citizens may have the opportunity to vote directly on important policy issues, often including issues that impact people with disabilities, such as housing and transportation.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingOne high-profile ballot measure in the 2018 Midterms is Florida Ballot Amendment Four, the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative. This amendment reads: “This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.” Florida is only one of four states with a lifetime ban on voting for people with prior felony convictions, and this disenfranchises 1.4 million Florida voters. Higher numbers of people with disabilities and people of color are incarcerated, making this ballot amendment a disability rights and civil rights issue. NCIL supports this amendment, as it restores the responsibility of civic engagement and ensures equal access for Florida citizens. You can learn more at Florida Second Chances[Read more…]

NCIL Disability Vote Organizer Talks Disabilities and Campaigning with She Should Run

This week, NCIL’s Disability Vote Organizer, Sarah Blahovec, sat down with She Should Run to talk about the challenges to participating in and running political campaigns for people with disabilities. She Should Run is “a non-partisan 501(c)3 that provides an approachable starting place and network for women leaders considering a future run for office and for those who support them.” Much of this work is accomplished through She Should Run’s Incubator program, which provides resources and a community for women to develop their leadership skills as they consider running for office.   [Read more…]

NCIL Campaign Accessibility Guide Highlighted in Rewire.News Article

On June 25th, Rewire.News covered three notable candidates running in 2018 who are making efforts to include people with disabilities in their campaign’s platform: Cynthia Nixon, Sara Bitter, and state Senator Barbara I’Italien. Beyond covering these campaigns’ policy stances and how they include the disability community, the National Council on Independent Living got a shout-out for its initiative to encourage political campaigns to become more accessible to voters and volunteers with disabilities.

[Read more…]

Action Alert: Attend Webinar on Advocating for Increased Accessibility with Additional HAVA Funds

On June 14, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, this REV UP Campaign webinar will explain the recently released Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding meant to help states to improve their election security and election accessibility. Mark Abbott from the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) will explain what funding is available, how it can be used, and how states can apply for it. Michelle Bishop from the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) will discuss how to advocate to state election officials to consider election accessibility as part of the overall plan to increase election security. Participants will have multiple opportunities to ask questions.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingWe encourage all people who care about election accessibility, from individual advocates to organizational staff, to attend.

Before the webinar, make sure to visit the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s page on 2018 HAVA Election Security Grants to learn how much your state was awarded from these grants.

Action Alert: Tell Your of State to Support Use of HAVA Funds for Election Accessibility

Recently, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission secured over $380 million in grants to improve election accessibility and security following the 2016 election. These grants were provided under Section 101 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which explicitly talks about using funds to make voting more accessible. You can find your state’s grant amount at the Election Assistance Commission website. Each state will have federal funds along with state-granted five percent matching funds to make security updates and accessibility updates can include buying new election infrastructure, making election websites more accessible, or beta testing new election equipment.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingDue to concerns about hacking, there may be a significant push for these funds to be used entirely for security purposes and to focus less on accessibility. However, inaccessibility is still a major barrier to voting for people with disabilities, and a 2012 report by Rutgers University found that over 30 percent of people with disabilities experienced at least one difficulty in casting their ballots, as compared to only 8.5 percent of people without disabilities. Therefore, Secretaries of State need input and advocacy from the disability community to inform them that accessibility is a priority and still a significant need in election systems across the country. We ask you to call your Secretary of State and advocate for these grant funds to be used on election accessibility, including election website accessibility, buying new election infrastructure, and beta testing new accessible election technology.

If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Blahovec at or 202-207-0334 ext. 1103.

Action Alert: Plan for National Disability Voter Registration Week

Since 2016, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) have worked in partnership on the REV UP Campaign to increase the political participation of people with disabilities.

The REV UP Campaign, launched by AAPD in 2016, is a nonpartisan initiative that coordinates with national, state, and local disability organizations to increase the political power of the disability community while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues. The Campaign focuses on voter registration, education, access, and engagement. REV UP stands for Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!

Today, NCIL and AAPD are reaching out to invite Centers for Independent Living to participate in National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) this year from July 16-20, 2018 to get more people with disabilities registered to vote and engaged in the political process in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.

The REV UP Campaign developed a National Disability Voter Registration Week Toolkit to help organizations and advocates plan their involvement in NDVRW.  [Read more…]

Including People with Disabilities in Your Political Campaign: A Guide for Campaign Staff

Although one in six voters has a disability, the disability community is often not recognized as an engaged voting constituency. Citizens with disabilities want to be engaged in the voting process; they want to learn about candidates, show up at the polls, and engage in campaigns. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to civic engagement for people with disabilities. Some of these barriers, such as impediments to voting accessibility, are issues that disability advocacy organizations and the government study and work to improve continuously. However, there’s very little information and few resources available to campaigns related to accessibility and voters with disabilities.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingCampaigns are essential components of civic engagement. They are where prospective voters can meet candidates, learn about what problems and solutions are being discussed in their communities, and form opinions that will influence their vote. Campaigns must connect with their communities and learn about their interests so that they can understand their voters’ needs. If a campaign isn’t accessible, they aren’t able to connect with their community fully, and many prospective voters with disabilities can experience barriers to learning about or participating in a campaign. Furthermore, campaigns are often powered by volunteers, and if they aren’t accessible, they’re both cutting off essential help and creating barriers to civic participation for people with disabilities who wish to be involved in the political process. It is up to campaigns to make sure that their information and events are accessible to voters with disabilities, and that they are reaching out to the disability community to actively include them.

To assist political campaigns with understanding the access needs, potential barriers, and interests of the disability community, the National Council on Independent Living has created “Including People with Disabilities in Your Political Campaign: A Guide for Campaign Staff.” This guide is a basic resource that campaigns at the local, state, and national levels can use to learn how they can become accessible not only to voters with disabilities, but also to people who want to volunteer with the campaign. It addresses the basics of understanding people with disabilities as a voting bloc; different types of potential accommodations for people with different disabilities; making your campaign website, materials, and events accessible; integrating disability into your policy platform; and including volunteers with disabilities in your campaign.

Including People with Disabilities in Your Political Campaign: A Guide for Campaign Staff:

This guide is a first step to making your campaign accessible, and although we strive to make it as inclusive and thorough as possible, it is not intended to be the one and only way to make your campaign accessible. Also note that accessibility is not a one-time fix, but something that must be continuously considered and integrated to be successful. It is essential for campaigns to reach out to people with disabilities in their community and learn about their interests and needs as voters and volunteers. If you have any questions about this guide, please contact Sarah Blahovec, Disability Vote Organizer, at

2018 Midterm Election, Step One: The Primaries

An Update from the NCIL Voting Rights Subcommittee

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingNow that we’re on our way into 2018, mainstream media is focusing intensely on the 2018 midterm elections, and voting rights organizations across the country are buzzing about the importance of showing up to the polls in November. However, civic participation isn’t just a once-every-other-November event; unfortunately, many Americans don’t understand that they can and should engage in voting-related activities prior to November elections. Furthermore, many people focus solely on the national-level election and don’t pay attention to local and state elections. Here are four ways you or your organization can become informed about civic participation outside of the November general election.

1. Learn about your state’s primary elections. Primary elections are elections held before the fall general election, and they tend to have lower turnout than general elections. These elections vary state-to-state in how they operate, but they help to narrow down the list of candidates that will appear on the ballot in the November general election for each party. Some of these primaries are “closed,” meaning that voters can only participate if they have declared a party affiliation, and they can only vote for the parties with which they are affiliated. In open primaries, voters do not have to declare a party affiliation. To find out more about your state’s primaries, how they operate, and when they will be held, visit the National Conference of State Legislators[Read more…]