“The full participation of all citizens, including those with disabilities, in the electoral process is imperative.  Voting is the very cornerstone of our great democracy. Registering to vote, accessing polling places, and casting a ballot are all part of a civil right that may not be compromised.

Jeff RosenChair, National Council on Disability

People with Developmental Disabilities Can Vote

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA), enacted in 2002, established minimum standards for uniform and nondiscriminatory election technology and administration requirements, including, requirements that citizens with disabilities be able to vote independently and privately. HAVA joins existing voting and disability rights laws to prohibit voter discrimination, suppression, intimidation, and denial of voting access for people with disabilities.

It is important  to Vote

Legislation directly affects the lives of persons with disabilities. Such issues as funding for supported employment, inclusive post-secondary education programs, NOW/COMP waivers, Medicaid, laws providing for insurance coverage for developmental disabilities, sick leave allowances for care of immediate family members and education are all decided at the legislative level. Governors sign and veto legislation and they form a budget. Vote! It makes a difference.

Barriers To Voting

You may find some barriers to voting. There are still undeniable barriers faced by people with disabilities on Election Day. Among these potential obstacles are accessible transportation, technology, obtaining necessary identification and encountering properly trained staff at the polls.

According to an October 2013 National Council on Disability report, titled “Experience of Voters with Disabilities in the 2012 Election Cycle:”

    • Nearly 40 percent of survey respondents encountered architectural and physical barriers at registration and polling sites
    • 45 percent of respondents reported barriers inside the polling location involving voting machines
    • 20 percent of respondents said they were prevented from exercising a private and independent vote.

Raise your voice and ask for help, point out the issues with voting or better yet, vote early at your county election office or mail in your ballot.

We Need Your Voices

“We have a unique perspective on the world, and we need to have our voices heard. Without a strong voter turnout from this (disability) population, we run the risk of stalling progress for the inclusion and empowerment of all Americans with disabilities. Everyone has to believe that their unique experience and contributions matter.” US Congressman JS Langevin (RI)

According to a report on Supportthevoter.gov entitled Disability and Voting Survey Report for 2012 Elections, 15.6 million people with disabilities reported voting in the November 2012 elections.The voter turnout rate of people with disabilities was 5.7 percentage points lower than that of people without disabilities.

There would be 3 million more voters with disabilities if they voted at the same rate as people without disabilities who are otherwise similar in age and other demographic characteristics.

Politicians are most response to groups with the greatest turnout and the most persistent voices. As a voting group, individuals with intellectual disabilities and those have the numbers to make a difference!

What to Do: The Three Step Voting Process

1. Register to Vote

The deadline has passed for registering in the 2014 election, but go ahead and get registered for other upcoming elections here:  http://sos.ga.gov/admin/files/app.pdf

To find out if you are already registered, go to this link : http://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/

On this site you can:

        • Check your Voter registration status
        • Mail-In application and ballot status
        • Find Poll location and early voting locations
        • Meet the elected officials
        • Study a sample ballot for the upcoming election
        • File Provisional Ballot status

2. Learn About the Candidates

Check out the following websites to get information on the candidates and their positions. There are TV debates you can watch and the newspapers run articles on the candidates. Find out their positions before you vote. Google the candidate names and look at their web pages and what others are writing about them.

How to identify the candidates and find individual voting records:

3. Place your vote (in advance by mail, during early voting period at select locations or at the polls on election day)

Note: for the 2014 election, early voting ends on Friday, Oct. 31, after that date the only option is to vote at the polls on election day.

To find your polling location visit: http://www.vote411.org/enter-your-address

A photo ID is required to vote in person.  Acceptable forms of identification are:

        • A Georgia driver’s license, even if expired.
        • Any valid state or federal issued photo ID, including a free Voter ID Card issued by your county registrar’s office or by the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS).
        • Valid U.S. passport.
        • Valid employee photo ID from any branch, department, agency, or entity of the U. S. Government, Georgia, or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of this state.
        • Valid U.S. military photo ID.
        • Valid tribal photo ID.

If Challenged at the Polls
If an election official or another person at the polling place says you are not competent to vote, you should ask for a provisional ballot. You have a right to cast a provisional ballot no matter what the state’s laws and regulations say about your eligibility to vote. It will be counted after Election Day if you are registered and eligible to vote. You can contact the protection and advocacy agency in your state to help you show that your provisional ballot should be counted. You can find the agency’s contact information on the web at http://www.ndrn.org.