The 2012 national elections are fast approaching and it is vital that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those who care about them get involved in the political process to help protect their interests. Whether it is a local, state or national election, advocates for people with I/DD have a responsibility to educate candidates about the issues and vote for those candidates who support the legislation which allows people with I/DD to live and be included in their communities with the appropriate supports.
One of the easiest ways to get involved in the political process is by simply voting. For people with I/DD, this can sometimes be a challenge. Even for people without disabilities, there are many reasons why they feel like they just can’t make it to the polls on Election Day. Have you heard (or used) any of these reasons for not voting?
- I have medical problems or conditions that make it hard to leave the house or wait in line at the polls (and the lines will be too long!)
- I don’t drive and I don’t have anyone who can take me there and back or the bus or subway routes don’t go near my polling place
- I have to work that day, I have an appointment that day, I have to stay home with my child/loved one that day.
- The voting booths can be intimidating/ I’m worried I won’t know how to use the machine and the poll workers might not understand my disability and be willing to help me figure it out.
- I’m afraid the poll workers won’t let me vote – maybe they won’t understand me if I have difficulty speaking or maybe they’ll say I’m not qualified.
Those are all common and understandable reasons that cause people to give up their constitutional right to vote. Luckily, there may be a simple answer to every single reason on this list (and just about any others you can think of). Absentee ballots! Absentee ballots can allow people to vote using a mailed ballot with which they can take time to read and re-read and think about their choices if necessary, get assistance with filling out the forms from caregivers or family members and not have to worry about getting to the polls on election day. Each state is somewhat different in their absentee voting processes and procedures so contact your local board of elections to find out more and get your absentee ballot. Make your mark this election day!