Understanding your rights as a disability voter

Woman in a mask holding a "VOTE" sticker

Voting is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, and it has never been as important as it is today.

Did you know that the disability community, if all were active voters, would be one of the largest and most influential voting blocs in the country? Unfortunately, many Americans with disabilities do not take part in the voting process. The reasons for this are many, but one reason may be that voting may feel inaccessible to someone who has a disability. Fortunately, several federal laws have been established over the years to ensure that Americans with disabilities have full and equal access to participating in the political process through voting.

While states may enact their own laws in respect to voting access, federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Help America Vote Act that lay out strict national standards about voting accessibility to ensure that no American is left out of the political process due to his or her disability.

Here are three of your most basic and fundamental rights as a voter with a disability.

You have the right to request an absentee ballot

In the age of COVID-19, the option to vote absentee is more important than ever. All eligible voters have the right to request an absentee ballot, and according to standards outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, voting materials including state websites, registration forms and ballots are required to meet strict national accessibility standards.

For voters intending to vote absentee, it is very important that you read up on specific rules and regulations in your state. For more information on your state’s absentee voting process, check out this page on Vote.org which will help you easily find absentee voting information specific to your state. 

You have the right to an accessible polling place

Should you choose to vote in-person on election day, your polling place is required to take steps outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure the location is accessible for all voters. ADA requires that people with disabilities can physically access voting sites, whether they be at city hall, a church, a business or anywhere else. There’s a standard checklist that helps election officials understand whether their site fits the bill, which you can view on the ADA website.

Furthermore, The Help America Vote Act of 2002 states that if a location is conducting a federal election, voting machines need to be accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. Poll workers must ensure the machines work and that election workers are fully trained on them. Additionally, the ADA requires officials conducting any elections to provide effective communication and auxiliary aids and services at every stage of the process, from registration through casting a ballot. 

You have the right to have someone assist you at the polls

Privacy is fundamental when it comes to voting, whether you have a disability or not. However, voters who have a disability and require assistance at the polls are entitled to having an assistant in the voting booth according to the Help America Vote Act of 2002. All poll workers, regardless of the state, are required to honor this regulation. However, if you run into an instance where you are questioned when bringing someone with you to the ballot box (which does happen), make sure you mention the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Voting is at the heart of who we are as Americans and no citizens should be left out of the process because of a disability. 2020 is one of the most consequential elections in our nation’s history, so it is more important than ever that people with disabilities make their voices heard!

Whether you choose to vote absentee or on election day, we hope you take part in the voting process. As Americans, there is nothing of greater importance.