By Lindsay Winters
Are We Moving Towards a Better Society or Regressing?
Voting should be as easy and accessible as possible, yet it’s become apparent that marking one’s ballot is becoming progressively more unattainable.
Across the country, the effort to further restrict the act of voting continues, with a tide of bills rolling through the senates and becoming laws. These new measures could significantly change the way you vote by the 2022 midterm election depending on where you live. As of June 21, 17 states have enacted 28 laws that tighten the rules to casting ballots –many of them echoing the former administration’s claims that loose elections laws, especially mail-in votes, would allow for widespread fraud.
As states take action to restrict and regulate voting methods, many within the disability community and outside of it are taking notice and see the significant impact these emerging laws have on disabled people’s rights and access to voting.
Hundreds of new laws have been proposed and target mail balloting and other policies that helped protect voting during the COVID-19 pandemic and helped produce the highest voter turnout in American history over the last century. These tighter restrictions would present barriers to disabled people voting independently or privately. Suppression efforts range from seemingly unhampered, like strict voter ID laws and curtailing early voting, to mass voter disqualification and systemic inequality.
These measures are not solely targeted at voters with disabilities, though they would significantly hinder disabled people’s access to voting. Additionally, these threats disproportionately affect people of color, students, the elderly, and low-income voters. It should be noted that these problems are not entirely separate from accessible voting for disabled people. Disabled voters are also people of color, elderly, low-income, and have other marginalized identities that fragile their voting status.
A handbook on protecting voting rights and access from the American Association of People with Disabilities and the REV UP disabled voter registration campaign identifies six of the most rampant voter suppression methods across the country:
- “Restricted Access to Mail-in Voting
- Increasing Voter ID Requirements
- Limiting the Availability of Ballot Drop Boxes
- Reducing Voter Registration Opportunities
- Reducing Opportunities to Vote
- Purging Registered Voters”
Some bills have already passed, like Florida’s Senate Bill 90, which increases ID requirements for absentee voting and limits access to drop boxes. Additionally, the Georgia state legislature passed Senate Bill 202, which eliminates mobile voting, restricts absentee voting, and limits drop boxes hours. As more legislatures wrap up their sessions, more states could still take action: Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona, to name a few.
So, what can you do to protect your right to vote?
Voting is one of the most fundamental constitutional rights for a reason: democracy cannot exist without participation from its citizens. We vote because we, the people, are intended to shape our government and not the other way around.
The best way to protect yourself from voter suppression is to know your rights and vote at an individual level. Before voting, read the American Civil Liberties Union guide on what to do if you have issues registering, need disability or language accommodations, or come across someone impeding your right to vote.