Council note: We would like to share with you a very good article on voting for individuals who have disabilities. We are reprinting it from the September 2014 issue of The Open Door, a publication of Access to Independence, Inc. in Madison.
Change Starts at the Ballot Box
– So Why Aren’t You Voting?!
People with disabilities vote at an alarmingly low rate compared to people without disabilities. On average, people with disabilities vote at a rate of 15% LESS than the general population. Considering that issues like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and employment are vital to the independence of people with disabilities, it is self-defeating that so few people with disabilities vote. We at Access to Independence believe that we can do better. We believe that all of us who are eligible should be voting in every election – and we’ve got some useful information to get us closer to that goal:
NEXT ELECTION: Tuesday, November 4, 2014. It is the general election for statewide races such as Governor and Attorney General, as well as all State Assembly seats and half of the State Senate seats. There will also be elections for all 8 congressional seats in Wisconsin, and many voters will find local races and referenda on their ballots.
WHERE TO VOTE: You can look up your polling place, the next ballot, and other useful bits of information to vote at www.myvote.wi.gov. If you don’t have access to a computer, call Access to Independence, and we can assist you over the phone.
REGISTRATION: When you register to vote you will need to complete a Voter Registration Form. If you are unable to complete and sign the form yourself, someone can assist you. You must provide the name and address for the person assisting you. The Voter Registration Form will ask you to provide the following information: 1) Your full name 2) The address where you live and the address where you receive mail 3) Your date of birth 4) Your signature and the date you complete the form 5) Proof of residence at your current address. If you don’t have proof of residence, you can register by mail at least 20 days before Election Day during the “Open Registration Period.” 6) If you have a Wisconsin driver’s license you must provide that number. If you do not have a Wisconsin driver’s license you can use either a State I.D. card number or the last four numbers of your Social Security Number. If you have none of these, a number will be assigned to you.
ISSUES AND CANDIDATES: Many people choose to not vote because they do not know who is running and what they stand for. One resource that is helpful is the League of Women Voters. You can get information online at www.lwvwi.org , or by calling 608-256-0827. Using the www.myvote.wi.gov website will allow you to see who is on your ballot, and you can then do an internet search to learn more. Most candidates have websites or Facebook pages.
VOTER ID: YOU NEED AN ID TO VOTE: A federal appeals court has ruled that Wisconsin citizens DO need to provide a photo ID to vote. If you would like more information, or would like to know how to obtain a FREE state ID, call Access to Independence at 608-242-8484. You are still required to sign the poll book, or receive assistance with signing if you are unable.
GUARDIANSHIP: A person’s right to vote can only be taken away by a judge. A person under an active power of attorney for healthcare can still vote. If there is a question, the guardianship papers should be checked. Some people lose the right to vote when a guardian is appointed simply because no one thought about letting them keep the right to vote. A person with a guardian can ask the court at any time to restore any right, including the right to vote.
RESOURCE: The best disability-specific source of information on voting can be found through the WI Disability Vote Coalition. They can be found online at www.disabilityvote.org , or by calling 1-844-347-8683. Much of the information in this article was derived from their Voting Guide for Citizens with Disabilities document. If you experience problems exercising your right to vote, you can call ATI or Disability Rights WI at 608-267-0214.
Accessibility and Voting: It is Your Right
Every voter has the right to vote privately and independently. If you have a disability, there are several options available to you to make certain that is possible.
- All polling places in Wisconsin are required to have an accessible voting machine.
- Any voter who needs help at the polls has a right to assistance.
You can have help in casting your ballot for any reason including: if you have problems reading or writing; have difficulty with the English language; or have a disability which prevents you from being able to mark the ballot.
Ask for help when you give your name and address to the poll worker. You may not receive assistance from your employer, a candidate on the ballot or a representative of your labor organization if you are a union member. Any other person, including a poll worker, may assist you.
By law, a polling place must be accessible to a person with disabilities. If your polling place is not accessible, notify your city, town or village clerk’s office and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. You can also call ATI or Disability Rights WI (608-267-0214).