Washington, D.C. — Disabled voters still face systemic barriers at nearly every step of the voting process that prevent them from participating in elections, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress that urges policymakers to improve accessibility.
The report examines a list of unacceptable hurdles, including inaccessible polling places and voter registration offices; inadequate registration and voting accommodations; and election information that is unreadable for some. Vote by mail posed problems for some disabled voters, as did the lack of accessible voting machines. Disabled Americans were roughly 7 percentage points less likely than nondisabled people to participate in elections in 2020 after adjusting for age, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and Rutgers University.
The recent spate of anti-voting laws passed in Georgia, Texas, and other states designed to keep Americans of color from accessing the ballot box also prevent disabled people from casting their votes. Voter suppression policies such as voter ID laws, early-voting restrictions, and policies aimed at limiting curbside voting and ballot drop boxes excessively burden disabled voters—especially people with mobility disabilities.
“The goal must be to not just shrink voter participation gaps between disabled and nondisabled voters—but eliminate such gaps altogether,” said Danielle Root, director of voting rights and access to justice on the Democracy and Government Reform team at CAP and co-author of the report. “Tools and resources exist to get the job done, but policymakers must exercise the political will to wield them.”
“Policymakers must work closely with voters and advocates representing varied disabilities and interests to determine all the ways that existing election systems are inaccessible,” said Mia Ives-Rublee, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at CAP and co-author of the report. “There must be a sense of urgency to fix these problems before the next major election.”
The report urges policymakers to:
- Provide more federal funding for election administration.
- Conduct comprehensive accessibility audits on election systems with reform mandates.
- Adopt pro-voter policies and meaningful accessibility standards for elections.
- Rescind anti-voting rules and reform guardianship laws.
- Develop safe and accessible election technology.
- Crowdsource low- and no-cost accessible voting solutions.
- Enhance enforcement of federal voting laws.
Overall, CAP estimates that at least $8 billion is needed for fiscal years 2022–2026 to fund important programs that will help improve election access and spur innovation around accessible voting.
Read the report: “Enhancing Accessibility in U.S. Elections” by Danielle Root and Mia Ives-Rublee
For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at gro.ssergorpnacirema@lenanahs or Julia Cusick at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcisucj.