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The United States of America is a well-established and successful contemporary democracy. The right to vote is, therefore, fundamental to our system of governance and to our sense of who we are as a people.

The right to vote in politics has historically been denied to voters with disabilities. As a result, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities addresses this issue and offers a comprehensive solution. Implementing and developing an impartial electoral system is the subject of Article 29.

It also mandates that states grant voters with disabilities the right to vote and safeguard them during voting. However, disabled voters’ voting rights and the scope and justification of exemptions receive little attention.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted even earlier, in 1990. This law has become the benchmark for accessibility for people with disabilities throughout the country.

Consequently, one of the most asked questions is how to make it possible for voters with disabilities to exercise their voting rights. Legislators or courts have not addressed this. However, current global practices demonstrate that individuals with disabilities can successfully participate in all phases of the electoral process.

In addition to exercising their right to vote, they can act as candidates, members of committees, observers, members of election committees, and voter educators. This blog depicts how voters with disabilities face an inaccessible system.

Infractions faced by voters with disabilities

Throughout election seasons, the right to vote has been a central theme. Some voters have complained that they have been prevented from going to the polls. Consequently, voting presents challenges for voters with disabilities.

According to Syed (2022), voting at a polling place can be challenging for one in three voters with disabilities. According to Creighton 2021, 67.7 million disabled people in the United States are eligible to vote, which is more than one-fourth of the total electorate.

One of the fundamental responsibilities of every citizen is the right to vote. When they cast their ballots, every voter is guaranteed that their interests and voices will be heard. However, some states do not explicitly grant citizens the right to vote, which means that some citizens have fewer rights than others.

What are the challenges faced by disabled voters?

Voters with disabilities face challenges that cannot be met solely through absentee voting. However, for the first time this year, blind voters in North Carolina used an ‘online Democracy Live’ voting system (Johnson & Powell 2020).

This electronic system was previously available to members of the military and overseas voters to register their ballots online, and it is now accessible to voters with visual impairments.

Some poll workers encourage them to use ballot marking devices. The alternative lets people read the ballot with a screen reader and fill it out at home, online, on their own, or in private.

This was because of a lawsuit filed in 2019 by the National Federation of the Blind, its affiliate in Maryland, and three blind voters in Maryland. However, not everyone has internet access, a printer, or screen reader technology.

Voters with disabilities continue to prioritize accessible information. Because campaign websites are not always accessible to individuals who use high-contrast text and screen readers, it is also difficult for voters with disabilities to locate information regarding the candidates.

Additionally, accessible information about candidates is difficult to come by, frustrating disabled people who feel excluded from the political conversation. Despite being smart enough to cash a ballot, voters with disabilities have struggled to vote for decades.

How to solve the challenges faced by voters with disabilities?

Many voters with disabilities use modified voting machines with earphones because they can’t mark paper ballots without help. However, the return to paper ballots has made poll workers reluctant to accept the new voter’s machine based on modern technology. To ensure a safe and smooth election, untrained poll workers have discouraged voters with disabilities from using accessible voting machines. This is a common complaint made by disabled voters worldwide.

During the 2018 election, either the accessible voting system did not work, or the station was not adequately set to enable privacy for voters with disabilities. Due to such factors, participation among voters with disabilities has decreased due to improper organization and a set of voting machines to cater to voters with disabilities (Creighton 2021).

What are the measures taken to ensure accessible voting?

In Colorado, state officials have taken numerous extra steps to ensure voting is accessible to voters with disabilities. Currently, Colorado has more than 68% of registered voters with various forms of disabilities who managed to vote in 2016.

Currently, voters have access to ballot papers and machines that are much simpler to use. Additionally, the introduction of automatic voter registration and voting by mail has made it simple for voters with disabilities to participate in many elections.

Recently, Rhode Island implemented automatic voter registration, which helped emulate the need for voters with disabilities to participate in the elections.

Some states are attempting to close the accessibility gap through legislation. The disability voter participation rate in New York State is 49%. Senate Democrats have introduced bills that aim at reworking the ballot papers to make them easier to read among voters with disabilities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, these voting challenges should not be faced alone by voters with disabilities. They can improve and influence policies in their communities and countries by utilizing their unique experiences and perspectives.

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