In early September, we launched the “I Have a Disability, and I Vote!” campaign. Throughout September and October, we encourage people with disabilities to submit their photo, along with their name and one or two sentences about why voting matters to them. We are publishing entries on our Facebook page from now until election day. Take a look at our Facebook page to see more of the entries.
“People with disabilities need to exercise their right to vote because exercising the vote will make the disability community stronger.” –Vicki Smith, Executive Director, Disability Rights NC
“I vote, because it allows my voice to be heard, and in doing so, it breaks down a big wall of exclusion. When the election candidates address issues that concern my disabilities, it allows me to make an informed decision. Voting helps make changes for the population that I am a part of, the Disability Community. See you in November at the polls, be heard, be visible to the candidates.” –D. Jones, Chair-Elect, Board of Directors, Disability Rights NC
“I vote because for too long, people with disabilities have let others decide our destiny. Voting is the supreme form of community involvement, and community involvement is the only way we’ll ever be able to make sure that nothing about us is determined without us.” –Mark Ezzell, President, Englewood Planning Group
“I vote so everyone can live independently.” –Caroline Bradstock, Travel Trainer, Alliance of Disability Advocates
“I vote because I want elected officials to look out for me.” –Christina Branch, Youth Independent Living Specialist, Alliance of Disability Advocates
“I vote so people with disabilities have equal rights and access to health care.” –Dave Wickstrom, Executive Director, Alliance of Disability Advocates
“I vote because I can. Too many in the disability community can’t exercise their right to vote. So when my voice is heard, all of us are recognized.” –Kristine Sullivan, Senior Attorney, Disability Rights NC
“I vote to best support the values I believe in.” – Chris Rivera, Independent Living Specialist, Alliance of Disability Advocates
“In order to see a change, my vote, my voice, will be heard on election day. Just as Margaret Mead once said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’” –Candice Bennett, Self-Advocate
“I vote to make my voice heard because the government cannot respond to silence. The strength of a democracy is measured by the engagement of its citizens.” –Matthew Herr, Attorney and Policy Analyst, Disability Rights NC
“I vote because I want elected representatives who are as passionate and dedicated to the full integration and inclusion of people with disabilities as I am.”–Holly Stiles, Attorney and Team Leader, Disability Rights NC
“I am blind and it is difficult to get to the polls. But I always vote because I want to make sure poll workers know how to interact with voters with disabilities.”–Rob Johnson, Self-Advocate
October 14: Voter registration must be mailed or postmarked by this date.
October 20–November 5: “One-Stop” Same-Day registration and early voting period.
November 1: Board of Elections must receive request for absentee ballots by 5:00 pm.
November 8: Absentee ballots must be received or postmarked by this date.
November 8: Election Day!
The first step to exercising your rights is knowing your rights. That is why Disability Rights NC has launched a voter information website—www.accessthevotenc.org.
This disability-focused and accessible website will walk you through every step from registering to vote to casting your vote in person, from home, or from a facility.
Not sure if you can vote? The website has an easy to follow checklist. Want to stay up-to-date on voting changes? Sign up to receive Election Alerts from us by email. Need to report a violation of your voting rights? Do that directly from the website.
This year, more than many other years, all eyes are on the election process and who will show up to vote. In our country’s last presidential election in 2012, 15.6 million people with disabilities voted nationwide. However, the voting rate of people with disabilities was about 5.7% lower than that of voters without disabilities. If people with disabilities had voted at the same rate as people without disabilities, there would have been approximately 3 million more voters with disabilities participating in the election.
The difference in voting rates may be explained by the fact that voters with disabilities experience more difficulty accessing the polling sites and absentee voting process than voters without disabilities (30.1% of voters with disabilities reported difficulties in 2012, compared to 8.4% of voters without disabilities). Further, almost one-third of voters with disabilities require assistance with voting. Lastly, voters with disabilities tend to vote at home (e.g., absentee) at a higher rate than voters without disabilities.
Recent Changes in the Law
On July 29, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down challenged provisions of North Carolina’s 2013 voting law, resulting in five important changes:
1. Photo ID. In general, you do not have to show any photo identification to vote. (However, there are some limited circumstances in which those registering or voting for the first time may have to show some form of identification.)
2. Same-Day Registration. If you miss the October 14 deadline for registering to vote, you can register to vote and vote at the same time during the early voting period.
3. Out-of-Precinct Voting. If you show up to vote at the wrong precinct on Election Day, you can still vote, as long as you are in the right county.
4. Early Voting. The early voting period has been restored to 17 days, to begin on October 20, 2016.
5. Pre-registration. 16- and 17-year-olds can pre-register to vote, even if they will not be 18 years old on Election Day.
In North Carolina, individuals can vote by: (1) voting at your polling place on Election Day (inside or curbside), (2) going to an early voting site in your county, or (3) voting absentee by mail.
Voting at the Polls
Some voters need assistance when they go to the polls. If you need assistance with voting because of your disability, you can have any person of your choice assist you when you go to vote. The only exception is that your employer or someone associated with your employer cannot assist you. Additionally, if the polling place is difficult to enter or reach due to age or disability, you can vote curbside, which allows you to vote from inside a vehicle. Curbside voting will be available at every polling place during the Early Voting period as well as on Election Day.
Absentee Voting by Mail
Anyone, whether or not he or she has a disability, can vote absentee by mail from their home or residence. To vote by mail, there are a few steps:
1. Mail an absentee ballot request form to your county board of elections office by November 1. These request forms need to be received by 5:00 pm on November 1.
2. After your absentee ballot arrives in the mail, fill out your absentee ballot in the presence of two witnesses or one notary public.
3. Return your ballot. Your absentee ballot must be returned in person or mailed (postmarked) to your county board of elections office by 5:00pm on November 8, 2016 (Election Day).
If you live in a facility, such as a nursing home or hospital, there are restrictions on who can serve as your witnesses. People who work at the facility cannot serve as your witnesses. You can arrange to have a Multipartisan Assistance Team (MAT) come to your facility to assist you with casting your ballot and/or serve as witnesses. To learn more information about MATs coming to your facility, call your county board of elections office for more information. You can find the phone number and address of your county board of elections office online at http://enr.ncsbe.gov/cbesearch/.
Most importantly, if you have any issues with voting, during the Early Voting period or on Election Day, you can cast a provisional ballot. Report any difficulties you encounter to the State Board of Elections office (866-522-4723), to your county board of elections office, to Election Protection (866-687-8683), or to Disability Rights NC (877-235-4210). For more information, visit our newly-launched voting website: www.accessthevotenc.org