League to register voters with disabilities
By GLENDA WOLIN
For people with disabilities, voting isn’t easy. Steps in the process that most of us don’t even think about – curbs, written instructions, oral interactions with election workers, the ballots themselves – become obstacles to those with varying types of disabilities.
But even the minimal focus on making voting accessible has made it easier than the necessary step before even thinking about getting to the polls. That’s voter registration, which is largely ignored when it comes to accessibility.
In Texas, paper voter registration forms must be filled out and mailed in instead of submitted online. The type is small, as is the space in which to write the information. There is little help available, although the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires all offices that provide public assistance or state-funded programs that primarily serve people with disabilities to provide voter registration forms, assist voters in completing the forms, and transmit completed forms to the appropriate election official.
To help citizens with disabilities register to vote, the League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area is participating in National Disability Voter Registration Week, which this year is July 16-20. We will hold a voter registration and information drive on July 18 from 6-8:30 p.m. at San Antonio College’s Eco Centro, 1802 N. Main, where we will register all eligible citizens, with a focus on disabled people. The building is wheelchair-accessible.
At the event, there will be:
- Deputy voter registrars to register eligible people to vote
- Mail-in registration cards for people who want to take cards home to fill out later or to give to others
- Applications for mail-in ballots for those who have problems getting to the polls
- A voting machine with an audio ballot, one of which is available for blind and vision-impaired voters at every polling site, and demonstrations of how to use it. (In the near future, Bexar County will be getting new voting machines that will allow voters to adjust the contrast, font size and more for increased readability.)
- A talk by State Sen. Jose Menendez on “Why Should We Vote?”
- ASL interpreters provided by Vital Signs, and Brailling services provided by Lighthouse for the Blind
- A video version, with audio and ASL interpretation, of the League brochure Vote: It’s in Your Best Interest
- Brochures from Disability Rights Texas with information for people with disabilities about voting
- Water and coffee provided by Eco Centro.
National Disability Voter Registration Week is a project of the REV UP Campaign, launched by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) in 2016.
National Disability Voter Registration Week Event
What: Voter registration, information
Where: Eco Centro, 1802 N. Main, San Antonio
When: July 18, 6-8 p.m.
REV UP is a nonpartisan initiative that coordinates with national, state, and local disability organizations to increase the political power of the disability community while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues. The campaign focuses on voter registration, education, access, and engagement. REV UP stands for Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!
As the time gets closer, we will post more information on our website, https://lwvsa.org, and on our Facebook page, @lwvsaa.
The League plans to continue its outreach to voters with disabilities by holding future voter registration events for them periodically or upon request, and by making information on our website more accessible. Helping us in our effort is Larry Johnson, a blind writer and speaker whose monthly column in the San Antonio Express-News always ends, “And that’s how I see it.” His latest column is reprinted elsewhere in this newsletter.
U.S. Election Assistance Commission: https://www.eac.gov/voters/voting-accessibility/
Texas Secretary of State: http://www.votetexas.gov/voters-with-special-needs/index.html
Disability Rights Texas: https://www.disabilityrightstx.org/resources/voting-rights; (888) 796-VOTE (8683)