Voting: Your Right & Your Independence

American flags symbolize the importance of the vote voting for independence & self-advocacy among people with disabilities

“Election Night at Rockefeller Plaza” Photo by: Marco Verch, in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Voting. It’s the right of every American citizen. Voting: It’s your right. Participating in U.S. democracy is also a unique chance to self-advocate and express one’s independence. Both of these are core values at Advancing Opportunities as well; they are at the heart of our mission and credo. All too often, however, people with disabilities find themselves excluded from this critically important process. Fortunately, here in New Jersey, information and resources on voting are available to every individual with a disability.

Voting - Its Your Right

This brochure has information to help New Jersey voters. It was developed by the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School – Boggs Center, in collaboration with Disability Rights New Jersey and the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities.

 

Although the November general elections receive the greatest press (and social media) coverage, it is the primary election when the two major parties, the Democrats and Republicans nominate their candidates for the general election in November. These individuals represent a wide variety of views on important issues not only at the national level, but also (and sometimes more important) the state, county, and municipal levels. Information on the positions of the gubernatorial (in New Jersey) and other candidates are available on this special page.

 

Disability Rights NJ VotingDisability Rights New Jersey is New Jersey’s designated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities pursuant to federal statutes intended to protect the legal, civil, and human rights of people with disabilities. The organization reminds us that people with a disability have the right to vote independently and in private. In addition, both the polling place and the machines must, by federal and state law, be fully accessible. Poll workers have been trained to offer voters with disabilities the assistance they need, but they cannot enter the voting booth or recommend a candidate. Voters with a disability may also bring a friend, family member, or agency worker to help out.

Although all voters should receive a paper sample ballot, one can also look up this information online at BallotpediaThe Alliance Center for Independence in New Jersey has many other excellent resources on its page should these be needed. General New Jersey voting information is available on the NJ Department of State website.

On Primary Election Day, June 6, 2017, Disability Rights New Jersey will have attorneys available by telephone to answer your questions concerning any disability-related voting problem you might experience. Call 800-922-7233 or e-mail Mciccone@drnj.org between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Disability Rights New Jersey is New Jersey’s designated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities pursuant to federal statutes intended to protect the legal, civil, and human rights of people with disabilities.

I Voted Sticker

Oh, yes, the November general election. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), “a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities,” has set up July 17 through 21 as National Disability Voter Registration Week, the focus of its Rev Up! campaign. More information on that and Crip the Vote will be featured in a future article in this space.

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Revving Up the Vote for National Disability Registration Week

As part of a national campaign to urge people with all disabilities to speak out for themselves through the power of the vote, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and other advocacy organizations have launched the REV UP campaign.  A major part of this effort is National Disability Voter Registration Week, July 11–15, 2016, which was established last year, as part of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Why?  The primary reason, according to AAPD, is that “There are nearly 30 million people with disabilities eligible to vote when registered. This number does not even include ‘the ripple effect’ of family, friends, and service professionals who will vote in-line with disability interests….  REV UP campaigns around the country will make a concerted effort to get more people with disabilities registered to vote, educate voters about issues and candidates, promote turnout of voters with disabilities across the country, engage candidates and the media on disability issues, and protect eligible voters’ right to participate in elections.”  A recent article in the Huffington Post also outlines why people should care, providing statistics and challenges people with various disabilities face.

Justin-Dart Rev Up

Justin Dart, the actor who spurred the ADA, is the subject of a poster, with the caption “Vote as if your life depends on it.  Because it does!”

ADAPT-REV-UP-Poster.jpg

The DisabilityVisibility #CripTheVote campaign, covered in this blog on June 3 is one of several co-sponsors, an advocacy organization founded and run by people with disabilities to raise awareness and appreciation for “America’s largest minority.”  As Alice Walker said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”  #CripTheVote will follow up on Sunday, July 24, 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. ET with a Twitter chat, “Disability, Violence and Public Policy.”

In addition to the many links AAPD and other groups provide, Disability Thinking is another worthwhile source, with many links arranged by category.

It is also worthwhile to note that people in the Deaf community are asking why most political ads lack captioning to make them accessible to Deaf and hard-of-hearing voters.   Indeed, the campaign is about both accessibility and having candidates for public office address the needs and injustices all to many people with disabilities face.

#CripTheVote: Advocating for the Needs of People with Disabilities This Election

Crip the Vote - Logo

During the primaries, and with the general election fast approaching, political candidates are appealing to many groups.  However, there has been increasing concern about whether people running for office are considering the needs of the nation’s largest minority: people with disabilities.  Three disability advocates, Alice Wong, Andrew Pulrang, and Gregg Beratan have launched a campaign to address this shortcoming: Crip the Vote.  These disability advocates are the forces behind DisabilityVisibility and Disability Thinking.  The first is “a nonpartisan campaign to engage both voters and politicians in a productive discussion about disability issues in the United States, with the hope that disability takes on greater prominence within the American political landscape.”  DisabilityVisibility started as an extension of the StoryCorps project, to give a voice to people with a meaningful life story that might not otherwise be heard or told.  The latter is a blog on various disability issues.  It offers a one-stop reference to learn how to register to vote and the positions of the candidates, so they can make an informed choice. Moreover, people with disabilities are urged to question and petition the candidates on issues affecting them.  The Rev Up Campaign is coordinating a National Disability Registration Week, July 11-15.  And, most important, this advocacy work must continue beyond the election, as Congress is responsible for enacting laws that protect the rights of people with a disability.

Crip the Vote - REV UP

 

A Word About That Word: “Crip”
The casual observer may question the use of the word crip.  After all, it is a shortened version of the derogatory term cripple.  The organizers of the Sex and Disability Conference, held November 2015, reclaimed the word as an inclusive term to represent people with all disabilities.

Alice Walker Power Meme