Statement: Disability Cannot be Used as Cover for Voter Oppression


April 7, 2021 | by Emma Olson

Disability Cannot be Used as Cover for Voter Oppression

Our democracy depends on every American having access to the ballot box. Yet, disturbing echoes of the oppressive new voting law passed in Georgia are now being heard in state legislatures around the country, putting voting access at risk for millions of people with disabilities, and threatening the very foundation of our democratic system.

Capitol Fax recently reported that here in Illinois, Republican state senator Darren Bailey dismissed concerns about disability access in the voting process, while he continues to push for paper ballots only, a proposal that would in reality be a dis-service to all of the people living in our state.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21.9% of adults in Illinois have some type of disability. Across the country, 1 in 4 people have a disability. Mail-in ballots along with electronic voting machines provide essential access to disabled voters. These tools are not optional; rather, they are essential to first building, and then maintaining, a more modern, fair and equitable voting process for every citizen in every neighborhood.

Not only is it critical to advocate for voting access, but we must remain watchful for attempts to use lack of disability access as a means to cut off access for all voters. For example, if a voting place is inaccessible, the answer is not to shut it down or move it far away; the answer is to invest in access solutions or move the voting location to a nearby space that is accessible. Disability cannot be used as cover for voter oppression.

Access Living will keep a diligent eye out for and vehemently oppose any bills in the Illinois legislature and nationally that could threaten the equity and accessibility of the voting process. We urge all disability advocates and allies to do the same. It is up to each and every one of us to fiercely protect and promote our right to vote and our access to do so, so that our democracy survives and truly serves its people.