It is difficult to applaud democratic values when up to one-fifth of the electorate has problems voting. This gap is indicative of what we in other arenas have termed "first generation" problems in voting rights--direct restrictions on people's ability to vote. (216) We expected that these problems would be solved with respect to voters of color with the adoption of the Voting Rights Act, (217) but they are still present if we turn our attention from race to disability. Voters with disabilities not only face harm because they are not able to vote individually, but also because of the blow to their representativeness as a bloc of voters with distinct interests within the political system. (218)
In addition to hurting the system, barriers to voting injure the people who are unable to vote. Potential voters with disabilities want to vote the same way as their fellow citizens--in person at a polling place. (219) Barriers to voting contribute to the low feelings of political efficacy on the part of people with disabilities. (220) Additionally, they send a message that people with disabilities are not wanted as political citizens. (221) This can cause dignitary harm, especially as it is part of a pattern of second-class citizenship. (222) Low political participation continues the system of ableism that has long characterized the second-class citizenship of people with disabilities. (223) Barriers to the political process are longstanding, and historically, people with disabilities faced express prohibitions on the right to vote. Now, what ties together people across various types of impairments is the social stigma they all face as people with disabilities. An absence of people with disabilities at the polling place is a visual reminder that reinforces stigma and communicates that people with disabilities are not full citizens. (224) Their inclusion in the democratic polity is a foundation for their participation in other arenas of social and civic life, and their lack of it is a fundamental marker of their unequal citizenship. (225) Moreover, as people with disabilities may not have the resources to participate in politics in other ways, such as through campaign contributions, it is even more important to emphasize their right to vote for democratic inclusion purposes. (226)
Excluding people with disabilities from the franchise threatens democratic legitimacy and consigns an already-disadvantaged population to second-class citizenship. In fact, voters with disabilities also compose a cross-cutting assemblage of people from other disadvantaged groups of concern such as people of color, veterans, poor people, and the elderly. As disability intersects with other categories of identity, election law scholars who care about those other categories must address disability as well.
As the country keys up for a presidential election, a significant part of the electorate is watching and waiting to see if this election aligns with the ethos of full participation in a secret and independent ballot for all voters. While recent history indicates that this ethos has been unfulfilled for people with disabilities, some state evidence shows new possibilities for fixing this problem for the future.
Alabama Appendix ID required: Photo ID requested (227) Permanent absentee status: No (228) Curbside assistance: Unknown Line-jumping: Yes (229) Long-term care provision: Unknown Link on main voting page: No Miscellaneous: No information for voters with disabilities on website. Alaska ID required: ID requested, but photo not required (230) Permanent absentee status: No (231) Curbside assistance: No (232) Line-jumping: Poll worker's discretion (233) Long-term care provision: No (234) Link on main voting page: Yes (235) Miscellaneous: Has accessible versions of voter registration form and absentee ballot application online. (236) Has a voter registration and absentee informational video with ASL interpreter. (237) Arizona ID required: Strict ID, but photo not required (238) Permanent absentee status: Yes (239) Curbside assistance: Yes (240) Line-jumping: Varies by county (241) Long-term care provision: Varies by county (242) Link on main voting page: Yes (243) Miscellaneous: States that "[t]he Arizona Center for Disability Law will run a hotline to address any election concerns for persons with disabilities" and that "[t]he ACDL ... Will file Help America Vote Act (HAVA) complaints." (244) Arkansas ID required: ID requested, but photo not required (245) Permanent absentee status: Varies by county (246) Curbside assistance: Varies by county (247) Line-jumping: Varies by county (248) Long-term care provision: Yes (249) Link on main voting page: No Miscellaneous: No information for voters with disabilities on website. California ID required: No (250) Permanent absentee status: Yes (251) Curbside assistance: Varies by county (252) Line-jumping: Varies by county (253) Long-term care provision: Varies by county (254) Link on main voting page: Yes (255) Miscellaneous: Conducts a survey of voters with disabilities prior to each election. (256) Notifies each registered voter whether his or her polling place is accessible before each election on the sample ballot mailed to each voter. (257) Has a statewide Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee (VAAC), which "is designed to advise, assist, and provide recommendations to the Secretary of State's office as to how voters with disabilities can vote independently and privately" and whose members "have been influential in assisting with numerous projects, including the Polling Place Accessibility Guidelines." (258) States that the VAAC's members "have helped raise awareness of disability issues through their involvement in the development of the Voter Accessibility Survey and production of the Polling Place Accessibility Surveyor Training Videos." (259) Colorado ID required: ID requested, but photo not required (260) Permanent absentee status: Not applicable Curbside assistance: Not applicable Line-jumping: Not applicable Long-term care provision: Not applicable Link on main voting page: Yes (261) All voting by mail. (262) Has a disability Q&A section on website (262) Notes that "[s]tate and federal laws require that every polling location be accessible" and urges voters to make their local election officials aware of issues if they find that their polling locations are not accessible. (264) States that voters can also file a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State and provides a link to information about the HAV complaint process on the Colorado Secretary of State's website. (266) Connecticut ID required: ID requested, but photo not required (266) Permanent absentee status: Yes (267) Curbside assistance: Yes (268) Line-jumping: Yes (269) Long-term care provision: Twenty-voter trigger (270) Link on main voting page: Yes (271) Miscellaneous: Encourages voters with disabilities to become poll workers. (272) Provides that "[t]he eligibility statement that is part of the registration process must be made available, upon request, in Braille, large print or audio to people with visual disabilities." (273) Has a "Voters with Disabilities Fact Sheet." (274) Delaware ID required: ID requested, but photo not required (275) Permanent absentee status: Yes (276) Curbside assistance: No (277) Line-jumping: No (278) Long-term care provision: Yes (279) Link on main voting page: Yes (280) Miscellaneous: "Most polling places are wheelchair accessible." (281) Has an online list of permanent absentee voters. (282) Has a Disabilities Law Program, which "receives funding to assist in the implementation of the Help America Vote Act and to ensure the full participation of people with disabilities in the electoral (voting) process" and "can provide education, training and assistance to people with disabilities to promote their participation in elections, including voter registration, training and advocacy informing the community about their rights on Election Day, including the right to accessible polling places." (283) Has a brochure for voters with disabilities. (284) Florida ID required: Photo ID requested (285) Permanent absentee status: Unknown Curbside assistance: Unknown Line-jumping: Unknown Long-term care provision: Yes (286) Link on main voting page: Yes (287) Georgia ID required: Strict photo ID (288) Permanent absentee status: No (289) Curbside assistance: By county (290) Line-jumping: Yes (291) Long-term care provision: No (292) Link on main voting page: Yes (293) Miscellaneous: Notes that polling places are required to be accessible and that if a polling place is not accessible, and a voter cannot enter it to cast a vote, local election officials must provide the voter with an alternative method of voting; under Georgia law voters with disabilities may use absentee ballots for this purpose. (294) Hawaii ID required: Photo ID requested (295) Permanent absentee status: Yes (296) Curbside assistance: Yes (297) Line-jumping: Yes (298) Long-term care provision: No (299) Link on main voting page: Yes (300) Miscellaneous: States that "[t]o ensure the security and integrity of election related activities at care facilities, staff members are discouraged from participating directly with a voter in the process of registering and/or voting absentee" and that "[s]taff may assist only upon receiving specific authorization from the resident (voter)." (301) Idaho ID required: Photo ID requested (302) Permanent absentee status: No (303) Curbside assistance: Yes, if arranged in advance (304) Line-jumping: Yes, by custom (305) Long-term care provision: Yes, by request of county or voter (306) Link on main voting page: Yes (307) Miscellaneous: Provides print, audio, and captioned video versions of operating instructions for voter assistance terminals. (308) Illinois ID required: No (309) Permanent absentee status: Yes (310) Curbside assistance: Yes (311) Line-jumping: Yes (312) Long-term care...