Making an Impact Across Disability: The Council and the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition
Collaborative and inclusive efforts benefit us all. The Council strives for a collaborative approach to initiate change through working with people who bring multiple perspectives and life experiences. One way the Council collaborates with other groups and individuals is through coalition work. In 2018, the Council joined the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition. Learn why it is important to vote, what the coalition does, and how you can get involved.
Voting is important because:
- Voting is a basic human right.
- It is a way to directly express whom you would like in office.
- Elected officials make decisions about issues people with disabilities care about, including transportation, medical care, employment and housing.
What is the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition?
The Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition is a group of people and organizations devoted to advocating for equal access to voting. Formed in 2008, the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition is the only group in Wisconsin focused on the entire voting experience of people with disabilities.
Each of the 1853 voting municipalities in Wisconsin uses different accessible voting equipment and the experience of voting can be slightly different.
In a Nutshell, What Does the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition Do?
The Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition ensures everyone has access to vote.
The coalition has three main goals:
Goal 1: To provide education, training and assistance to individuals with disabilities that will promote their participation in the electoral process.
Goal 2: Training and education of election officials, poll workers, and election volunteers regarding the rights of the voters with disabilities and best practices in working with individuals with disabilities.
Goal 3: To provide assistance to States and other governmental entities regarding the physical accessibility of polling places, implementation of accessible voting machines, and the accessibility of the entire electoral process.
The Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition fulfills these goals by:
- Gathering data about the experiences of people with disabilities during voter registration, at the polling place and while voting
- Educating people with disabilities on their rights as voters
- Providing voter feedback to the Accessible Voting Advisory Committee, which in turn advises the Wisconsin Elections Commission
- Ensuring people know about accessible voting machines
- Advocating for change that will increase voting by people with disabilities
- Disseminating information about the registration and voting processes, and information about how voters with disabilities can get to the polls on Election Day
The coalition is comprised of 28 members, representing 13 organizations. Disability Rights Wisconsin and The Board for People with Developmental Disabilities are the coalition leaders, and funds for coalition work comes from the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Other coalition member organizations include: Wisconsin Elections Commission, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Access to Independence, Promote Local, My Choice Family Care, NAMI Wisconsin, People First, Special Olympics Wisconsin, Deaf Unity, and ACLU. Council CEO/Executive Director, Denise Jess, represents the Council on this coalition. She connects the Council’s legislative priorities to the coalition’s work. Individuals can also join the coalition; Sara Thomas and Jerry Holzbauer represent their local communities.
What Can I do Right Now?
Ways to get involved are: join the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition; attend and spread the word about local voter registration events; organize your own voting education or registration initiative.
Become a Member of the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition:
The Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition is recruiting new members. Both individuals and organizations are welcome to join.
“We are particularly looking to diversify representation throughout the state,” says Jenny Neugart, who is with the Board for People with Developmental Disabilities and serves on the steering committee of the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition. “People who live in rural areas are encouraged to join. With over 1,800 voting municipalities in this state, we want to make sure we represent a variety of people and experiences.”
Visit disabilityvote.org/join/individual to join as a community member, or disabilityvote.org/join/organization to join as an organization.
National Disability Voter Registration Week is July 15-19. It is a bipartisan initiative to register people with disabilities to vote, educate and prepare them for upcoming elections, and inform the general public of issues people with disabilities face in the voting process. Events are taking place in Wisconsin and throughout the country. If you want to participate in your community, here is a toolkit created by the American Association of People with Disabilities which lists ways you can get involved in National Disability Voter Registration Week on a local level. If you want to organize an event, REV Up materials are available at aapd.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2019-National-Disability-Voter-Registration-Week-Toolkit.pdf.
The week of July 15, Disability Voter Registration Week events will be held in Madison, Milwaukee and Eau Claire. Check out the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/WisconsinDisabilityVote for more details.
The Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition is hosting a voter registration table at the Disability Pride Festival. It takes place on Saturday, July 27, from noon-5 p.m. at Tenney Park in Madison. Visit disabilitypridemadison.org/ for more details.
Do you know someone who is curious about the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition or might want to know about the Council’s involvement? Forward them this message.