register to vote

2016 election: Your right to vote

by TAYLOR WOODARD, The Arc

The 2016 primaries are complete, and the presidential election this November is coming up fast. Every American citizen, including people with disabilities, should be thinking how they will cast their vote during the 2016 election. Remember, every vote matters! Your participation in the electoral process has a direct impact on the issues that matter most, including the shape, structure and financing of vital programs for people with disabilities like Medicaid and Social Security. If you weren’t registered to vote in the primaries, it’s not too late to get registered for the general election. Read below to find out how to get started.

Register to vote for the 2016 election

Depending on your preferences and needs, you can register by mail, online via the National Mail Voter Registration Form or in person at your state or local voter registrar’s office. It’s also possible to register at state-funded organizations serving people with disabilities or at your department of motor vehicles for the 2016 election. A few states even offer same day registration. Make sure you know the registration deadlines in your state. Unfortunately, some — but not all — states automatically deprive people with disabilities under guardianship of the right to vote. You can learn more about this issue here and here.

Once registered, research all aspects of your state’s electoral process. Based on where you live, you will be assigned a polling location. Creating an election day voting plan will make the process more fun and less stressful! This includes familiarizing yourself with the voting site and surrounding neighborhood, so you will be comfortable getting there on election day. Learn the type of voting device used in your particular jurisdiction. Your plan should also include any accommodations you may require. Absentee ballots are a popular request, as they permit individuals to vote prior to the 2016 election.

Your right to vote

Over the years, congress has enacted a number of laws that protect people with disabilities’ right to vote and guarantee the right to accommodations. Among them are the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The Voting Rights Act requires election officials to allow you to receive help from a person of your choosing. The Help America Vote Act strengthens voting protections for people with disabilities by requiring that jurisdictions overseeing federal elections maintain at least one accessible voting station at each polling location.

Despite having protections in place, violations do occur. If your rights are violated at any time during your voting experience, there are a number of ways to report it. The Department of Justice has a specific section within their Civil Rights Division to the enforcement of voting rights for people with disabilities. You can also contact your state’s Protection and Advocacy agency or the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition hotlines: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (administered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law) and 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota (administered by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund).

Every election matters and directly impacts every individual’s daily life. Like all Americans, people with disabilities have the right to cast their ballot. Your vote makes a difference! By taking simple steps, our community has the power to vote for leaders that will work to create a more inclusive America for all. Make an impact; educate yourself and vote this year and every year.

This information was provided to you by The Arc.

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