The ongoing coronavirus pandemic will make casting a ballot, even by mail, almost impossible for the 38 million eligible voters with disabilities, The New York Times reports.
"Democracy only works if everyone is able to participate and vote," said Lisa Schur, a professor at Rutgers University who researched disabled voter disenfranchisement with her husband, fellow Rutgers professor Douglas Kruse. "And to the extent people with disabilities are excluded from the process, then we really have a failed system."
Schur and Kruse found that disabled voters make up about 16% of the electorate, with an estimated 21.3 million eligible voters who have mobility disabilities, 13.1 million who have cognitive disabilities, 11.6 million who have hearing disabilities, and 7 million who have visual disabilities, with many of those voters having disabilities that span multiple categories.
Many disabled voters will opt to vote with a mail-in ballot because of the coronavirus, but many voters with a disability are unable to vote by mail. One Cincinnati woman with multiple sclerosis told the Times that she doesn't feel safe voting in person during the pandemic, but she cannot write by hand or sign an absentee ballot due to her condition. She previously tried to submit ballot requests with a signature stamp, which Ohio allows for people with disabilities, but it was rejected multiple times.
"It blows my mind that we're still having the security versus accessibility debate on voting — I mean, the [Americans with Disabilities Act] is 30, I would've thought we would have figured it out by now," said Rebecca Cokley, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress. "The internet's middle-aged. How can we eventually get to the point where people with disabilities can vote by any number of different mechanisms, by the mechanisms that work best for them?"
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