Politicians Too Busy With Politics to Care About People With Disabilities

Author: Pavel Kuljuk - Contact: Contact Details
Published: 2023/11/09 - Updated: 2024/03/26
Publication Type: Opinion Piece, Editorial
Contents: Summary - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: Activism of people with disabilities in the 2024 presidential elections will be a real assessment of the effectiveness of federal politicians. In the USA there are 38 million citizens with disabilities eligible to vote. Disabled people make up one-sixth of the electorate. But the share of disabled voters voting is always less than the share of voters without disabilities.

Introduction

Disabled people are the part of the electorate that needs the united attention of Republicans and Democrats. However, political infighting prevents politicians from working together to care for people with disabilities. The activism of people with disabilities in the 2024 presidential elections will be a real assessment of the effectiveness of federal politicians.

Main Digest

In the USA there are 38 million citizens with disabilities eligible to vote. Disabled people make up one-sixth of the electorate. But the share of disabled voters voting is always less than the share of voters without disabilities. This proves that people with disabilities have problems during voting. In the 2020 election, the share of disabled people voting increased dramatically. It became clear that people with disabilities could vote more actively than usual. But this success may be temporary. Since the reason for this is the liberalization of voting conditions thanks to COVID-19. Without a pandemic, voting conditions could return to normal. And this will reduce the activity of disabled people. Political scientists and people with disabilities recognize the need to improve voting conditions for people with disabilities. But this can hardly be done in the near future.

COVID-19 Has Shown That Not All Is Well With the Expression of Will of Disabled People

In the 2020 elections, voting rules were liberalized due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations (1) the most common changes were:

The share of voters who voted has increased. Interestingly, the share of disabled voters who voted increased more than the share of voters without disabilities. These are the results of the 2020 elections according to Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. (2)

Disability and Voter Turnout in 2016 and 2020
Date20162020Change 2016-2020
Without disabilities 62.2% 67.5% 5.3%
With disabilities 55.9% 61.8% 5.9%
Disability turnout gap -6.3% -5.7% 0.6%

But the rate of increase in voting among disabled people is not the only record. The share of disabled people voting in 2020 was the highest since 2008! It is also interesting that the share of disabled voters voting is always less than the share of non-disabled voters voting. (3)

People Voting With and Without Disability by %
YearVoters With Disabilities by %Voters Without Disabilities by %
2020 61.8% 67.5%
2018 49.3% 54.0%
2016 55.9% 62.2%
2014 40.8% 42.1%
2010 42.8% 45.9%
2008 57.3% 64.5%

The 2020 elections force us to take a closer look at voting procedures in the United States. It is quite obvious that some reasons are holding back the expression of the will of disabled people. It is a fact. Although the federal government regularly pays attention to this problem. Over the past 50 years, four federal laws have been approved to promote voting for people with disabilities. The problem is not a lack of attention from politicians. The problem is the quality and effective implementation of laws. Senior Director of Political RespectAbility, Stacy Cervenka spoke about the situation in detail. She said:

"There are already several federal laws that require equal voting access for people with disabilities, most significantly the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Together, these laws mandate that people with disabilities have access to registering to vote and casting their ballots."

However, over 20 years after HAVA was passed, many people with disabilities continue to encounter barriers at every stage of the voting process. Sometimes polling places are inaccessible to people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices because accessible entrances are blocked, non-functioning, or unmarked. Sometimes the voting machine that is accessible to blind and low vision voters is unplugged, turned off, or the polling place volunteers are unaware of what it is used for or how to use it. At this point, it's largely a matter of accountability, enforcing the laws that already exist, and issuing some new regulations that update and clarify what access looks like in 2023, which includes more provisions for voting remotely, whether by mail-in ballot, secure website, or other innovative methods.

Representatives of people with disabilities also say that there are problems and this needs to be solved. Here's what Jeff Peters, Director of Communications Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY) said:

"It's not that people with disabilities need "easier" voting conditions, it's that the barriers that exist need to be removed and accommodations need to be made so that people with disabilities can vote independently. Changes such as increasing the availability of mail-in ballots, no-excuse absentee ballots, and making absentee ballots more accessible all help in ensuing that people with disabilities can exercise their right to vote. Yes, that does make mean making it easier for people with disabilities to vote, because it has been so hard for so many for so long. People with disabilities are one of the largest groups in the United States. We must remove the barriers to voting for people with disabilities".

Can the Situation Change?

However, is it possible to change the situation? At the federal level, no. But at the state level, yes. Marvelous. But in both cases the reason is the same. The bitter infighting between Democrats and Republicans prevents changes at the federal level but supports changes at the state level. Here's what political consultants say.

"I doubt there will be any significant movement in the US Congress to expand voting access to any group in the next year. The political will is not there", said President and Co-Founder of RBI Strategies and Research, Rick Ridder.

"Not with Republicans in Charge, No", said Founder/Principal at The Sexton Group Jaimey Sexton.

"It's unlikely such a bill will pass a divided government", said President Kaplan Strategies Doug Kaplan.

"I am unaware of any new legislation being proposed or under discussion. Of course, if Democrats controlled both houses of Congress again -- ease of voting in general for all Americans would likely receive more attention and traction as a major issue. Under those circumstances, it is possible that access for those with disabilities would be included in a broader piece of legislation. But I have not seen anything moving forward as of right now", said Professor │ Department of Political Science Director │ Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics The University of Akron, J. Cherie Strachan, Ph.D.

"As things stand currently, with a Republican controlled House of Representatives, I would be very surprised to see any movement from Washington toward passing legislation that makes voting more accessible. It's unfortunate to say, but it was Republicans who fervently opposed the expansion of voting access during COVID, and their support for any legislation that would make it easier for seniors or those with disabilities to cast a ballot would be a diametric shift to their current public position", said Director at Mercury Public Affairs, Aaron Siegel.

"The challenge to get anything passed at the federal level is (a) cooperation between both parties and (b) getting members to focus and champion voting rights expansion for people with disabilities. In the current political climate, Republicans are very concerned about voter fraud and the security of elections. With Republicans having control of the House, it's very unlikely that we'll see any kind of voting rights expansion anytime soon", said Principal Strategist Hill & State Strategies, Alyssa N. Batchelor, M.S.

"I highly doubt that any new federal law will be passed to make voting easier for anyone, including those with disabilities. However, states like California are more likely to implement more accessibilities measures than the federal government, especially with Republicans controlling the United States House of Representatives", said Principal, Eldridge Political Partners LLC Jordan Eldridge.

What political consultants say is confirmed by the activities of legislators. Federal legislation has changed little since the memorable 2020 vote.

"The only recent attempt to address this issue that I have noticed is President Biden's executive order in 2021", said Professor │ Department of Political Science Director │ Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics The University of Akron,J. Cherie Strachan, Ph.D. We are talking about "Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting". (4)

At the US state level the situation is different. There are real legal wars going on every year in every state. The purpose of these battles is to formulate new voting rules. Lawmakers at the state level are trying to protect elections from fraud while at the same time allowing for free expression of the will of all groups in the population.

According to 2021 data, 49 states were considering about 400 laws to make it more difficult for people with disabilities to vote and 900 laws to make it easier for people with disabilities to vote. (5) There is no data on how many and what laws have been adopted. But it is clear that without action from federal legislators, the next elections will become a real lottery for the disabled. These people's voting options will depend on where they live.

Conclusion

To solve problems at the federal level, people with disabilities need the combined political efforts of Republicans and Democrats. However, people with disabilities do not have sufficient lobbying capabilities for this. This is the main problem that prevents the full implementation of the voting rights of people with disabilities in elections. To address this problem, lobbying capabilities need to be improved.

The situation can improve without the participation of disabled people. To do this, one of the parties, preferably the Democrats, must take control of Congress and the government. Then perhaps politicians will adopt a new federal election law. This will give politicians support for people with disabilities. But the likelihood and timing of this scenario are unknown.

As always, there is a third option. Disabled people in the United States can organize their own political party that would defend the interests of disabled people. However, this path is so difficult that it seems fantastic.

In the current situation, the future presidential elections will determine not only the 47th President of the United States, but also the importance of people with disabilities for federal politicians. This will show the participation of disabled voters compared to 2020.

References:

1) https://smlr.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/Documents/Centers/Program_Disability_Research/FactSheet_Disability_State_Voting_Access_Rules_2020.pdf

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

3) https://smlr.rutgers.edu/faculty-research-engagement/program-disability-research/voter-turnout-and-voting-accessibility

4) https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/03/07/executive-order-on-promoting-access-to-voting/

5) https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/08/people-disabilities-vote/619834/

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Cite This Page (APA): Pavel Kuljuk. (2023, November 9 - Last revised: 2024, March 26). Politicians Too Busy With Politics to Care About People With Disabilities. Disabled World. Retrieved June 14, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/editorials/political/politicians-disabled.php

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