the advocacy monitor

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

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.