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How Disabled Voters Are Accessing Democracy


ID: While legal battles may offer longer-term solutions to the barriers facing disabled voters, other organizing efforts are focused on working within the imperfect system we have now to ensure as many disabled people as possible can access the vote.

PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES


When Kenia Flores was studying for her bachelor’s degree at Furman University in South Carolina and wanted to vote in her hometown election in North Carolina, she needed an absentee ballot. However, she soon discovered North Carolina did not offer accessible absentee ballots for blind or print-disabled individuals. This left Flores, a blind voter, in the position of either sitting out the election or compromising her right to cast her ballot privately and independently by asking a friend to mark it for her.


“That made me very uncomfortable, because it’s a vulnerable position to be in—there is no way for me to verify that the individual marks my ballot as I specified, and unfortunately, that was my only choice if I wanted my vote to be counted,” explains Flores. She is now a Voting Access and Election Protection Fellow at Detroit Disability Power (DDP), an organization committed to building the political power of the disability community.


As the general election nears, disability-led organizations like DDP are scaling up their efforts to combat common barriers to the ballot box for disabled voters. While one in four adults nationwide has a disability, there remain significant gaps in voting access for this demographic. Disabled organizers bring unique expertise rooted in lived experiences to the work of improving voting access and forging a more inclusive democracy. The landscape they are working in is a difficult one given the nation’s patchwork, state-led voting system that demands a unique strategy for countering voter suppression in each state. 


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