Equality Amendments Could Increase the Political Influence of the Disabled

Author: Pavel Kuljuk - Contact: Contact Details
Published: 2023/10/03 - Updated: 2024/03/26
Publication Type: Opinion Piece, Editorial
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Passage of the constitutional amendment can make it possible to eliminate the disproportionate representation of persons with disabilities in elected office. The newest and most powerful gesture is the development of "Equality amendments" to the New York state constitution. This amendment prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and promotes anti-discrimination laws.

Main Digest

In the current situation, the struggle for the rights of people with disabilities is the elimination of the consequences but not the causes. Passage of the constitutional amendment can make it possible to eliminate the disproportionate representation of persons with disabilities in elected office. By realizing their political potential, persons with disabilities can avoid many situations where they need protection. This will make it possible to eliminate most of the reasons why people with disabilities need protection.

Labors of Sisyphus

Nearly one in five people in New York State has a disability. There are 3 million disabled people living in the region.(1) In the 2020 presidential election in New York State, 61.3% of the total number of people with disabilities voted. This is 12.5% more than in 2016. Then 48.8% of disabled people voted. The share of disabled people who voted in 2020 was only 3.8% less than the share of non-disabled people who voted 65.2%. In 2016, the disabled voted -9.6% less than the non-disabled.(2)

As you can see, disabled people are of great political importance. Their activity in the elections is growing. As people with disabilities are increasingly trying to defend their rights. In trying to do this, disabled people vote either Republican or Democrat. Disabled voters hope that politicians will help them. Politicians justify these hopes. By gaining power, elected officials try to protect the interests of the disabled.

Predominantly, protection occurs through the adoption of various laws and legal documents. The newest and most powerful gesture is the development of "Equality amendments" to the New York state constitution. This amendment prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and promotes anti-discrimination laws. The vote on this issue will take place in autumn 2024. One of the organizers of the adoption of the amendments is the New York State Assembly Member and Chair, Committee on People with Disabilities Rebecca A. Seawright.

"Senator Liz Krueger is the companion sponsor in the State Senate. Both the Assembly and the Senate passed resolutions in support of the amendment, commonly known as the equality amendment. This was done as required in the two most recent and consecutive legislative sessions. As a result, consistent with the process outlined in the NYS Constitution, the amendment will be on the statewide ballot for the November 2024 General Election," says Rebecca A. Seawright.

She emphasizes:

"People in New York can help by voting in support of the amendment next year. This will enshrine in the constitution the highest possible." state protection from discrimination against people with disabilities and all of the protected classes enumerated in the amendment.Its passage will serve as a model for other states to replicate as they strive to safeguard the freedoms of their residents".

What is the Main Problem of the Disabled?

Let's be frank. Voting for "Equality amendments" is a good thing. This is not the only one. There are 15 Bills Pending New York Assembly People with Disabilities Committee.(3) All these laws should help disabled people. But there is a problem! These laws eliminate the consequences, but not the causes! The main reason for the problems of people with disabilities is that people with disabilities have not realized their political potential. Disabled people make up 15.7% of the total US adult population. But the proportion of people with disabilities only 10.3% of the total number of elected positions. This is 5.4% less than the proportion of people with disabilities in the total population. State and federal situation even worse. There, disabled people occupy only 6.9% and 6.3% of elected positions. This is almost two-thirds less than the proportion of people with disabilities in the total US population.

Disabled people do not have enough capacity to independently make laws that affect their lives. Because of this, most of the threats to the disabled arise. These threats then have to be eliminated in long, complex and expensive legal wars. "Equality amendments" are just a small part of it.

Persons with disabilities need support in their election to elective office. But there is no law that does this. It is very strange. After all, 40 years ago it was adopted a law that helps people with disabilities vote. This is Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984.

Disabled people do not agree with the current situation. Director of Communications Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York(CIDNY) Jeff Peters says that the disabled are not equally represented in legislative bodies. It is necessary to increase the number of disabled people in the office.

He said:

"In the disability community we often say "Nothing about us without us." If you are going to pass laws that affect people with disabilities, and all laws do, there needs to be consideration and representation".

Can Something be Done?

Can be accepted federal law that supports people with disabilities in elective office? Political consultants think that this is not possible.

"In my opinion, the probability of there being a federal law that promotes people with disabilities to elective office is very, very slim and incredibly unlikely within the foreseeable future. As far as I'm aware, there is no federal legislation that encourages the promotion of any marginalized group(i.e. women, people of color, people with disabilities, etc.) to elected office",- said Principal Strategist Hill & State Strategies, Alyssa N. Batchelor, M.S.

Founder and Creative Director of Targeted Creative Communications, Inc.,Dan Hazelwood also believes that the possibility is "zero".

"That said, I would doubt that such a law would be passed by this or any congress",- said Assoc. Professor of Media & Communication, Lesley University, Cambridge MA, Donna Halper.

"You cannot legislate minimum representation. It would compromise our ability to choose elected officials for whatever reasons we find important.And you cannot make separate rules for one group of office-seekers simply because you think they are at a disadvantage",- said Owner, Principal Consultant,Elaina Bedio.

"It's highly unlikely that any government entity(federal, state or local) could design legislation to facilitate the election of people with disabilities or any other group, for that matter", said Klink Owner & President Campaigns, Inc.,Matt Klink.

"I think the likelihood of promoting the election of people with disabilities is remote, at least the passing of this into law", - said CEO and Founder, Capitol City Research, Willis Jones.

But at the state level, there is support for change. It is not known how great this support is. But there is support.

To the question "Do you think it is appropriate to adopt a federal law that promotes the election of persons with disabilities to elective office?" Assembly Member Harvey Epstein responded:

"I support any law that make voting easier and accessible for people with disabilities for sure".

As we can see, members of the New York community are not only fighting for the rights of people with disabilities, but are also ready to take this struggle to a new level.

However, this is still just talk. There is no political force in New York State that is now ready to initiate legislation to promote the election of persons with disabilities to elected office at the state level.

However, if "Equality amendments" are adopted, the situation may change. The disproportionate representation of persons with disabilities in elected positions may be called "discrimination". Then, in accordance with the state constitution, it will have to be corrected!

References

1) https://www.health.ny.gov/community/disability/prevalence.htm

2) https://www.eac.gov/sites/default/files/document_library/files/Fact_sheet_on_disability_and_voter_turnout_in_2020_0.pdf

4) https://legiscan.com/NY/pending/assembly-people-with-disabilities-committee/id/4444

5) https://smlr.rutgers.edu/news-events/news/report-1-10-politicians-has-disability-thats-gap-representation

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Cite This Page (APA): Pavel Kuljuk. (2023, October 3). Equality Amendments Could Increase the Political Influence of the Disabled. Disabled World. Retrieved April 17, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/blogs/equality-amendments.php

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