July 18, 2019
by: Emily Hastings
A Study Predicts Surge In Disability Voters In 2020
By Sarah Kim
July 10, 2019
The 2018 midterm elections had recording-breaking voter turnout: 53% of the citizen voting-age population voted, marking the highest midterm turnout in four decades. There were significant increases in voter turnout among minority groups, including Hispanic/Latino and African-American voters.
However, the population that surpassed all other minority populations was people with disabilities, according to a study conducted by Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations. In 2018, 49.3% of people with disabilities voted, an estimated 14.3 million voters, a 8.5% increase from the 2014 midterm elections. Additionally, an estimated 10.2 million voters live with someone with a disability. Combined, this suggests that 20% of all voters have some connections to disability.
“Going into the 2020 elections, these results show that the disability community is likely to be very politically engaged,” said Professor Douglas Kruse, who co-authored the report. “How candidates deal, or fail to deal, with disability issues may greatly affect the votes of the millions of people with disabilities and their friends and families.”
Each year, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) coordinates National Disability Voter Register Week during the third week of July, this year being July 15-19. The goal of the week is to increase the political power of people with disabilities, as well as to put disability-related issues on the forefront of candidates’ platforms and media coverages.
Although the 2018 midterm elections experienced the highest disability voter turnout, a “disability gap,” the difference in turnout between people with and without disabilities, still existed— a 4.7 points gap. Movements like National Disability Voter Registration Week aims to close that gap.
“Despite facing many barriers to voting, people with disabilities are politically engaged and will be a significant part of the electorate in 2020,” said Professor Lisa Schur, the other coauthor of the report. “It’s good for democracy when we see such increased turnout by a group that is historically underrepresented at the polls.”
With 20% of the voter population having a connection with disability, it is imperial that candidates start catering to people with disabilities and including disability issues in their campaigns. So far, the 2020 presidential candidates are on a weak start. None of them have websites that are fully accessible to blind voters, and disabilities were not brought up at all during the first Democratic debates.
In order to accommodate the predicted disability voter turnout in the upcoming presidential election, disability advocates are pushing for more voting poll location to be accessible. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 60% of the polling places reviewed had at least one impediment to voters with disabilities. Organizations and advocates are pushing for those accessibility issues to be addressed and fixed before the 2020 elections.
The voices of the disability community deserves to be heard, and all voters should be physically able to exercise their right to vote. It is time that politicians and election officials take disabled voters as seriously as they do with any other groups.
This article was shared from Forbes