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Ramping Up Political Power of Michiganders with Disabilities

More than 35 million people with disabilities were eligible to vote in 2016. (Amanda Wood/Flickr)
More than 35 million people with disabilities were eligible to vote in 2016. (Amanda Wood/Flickr)
July 17, 2017

LANSING, Mich. — People with disabilities represent nearly one-sixth of the total electorate in the United States, and during National Disability Voter Registration Week, these folks are encouraged to ensure their voices are heard.

Zach Baldwin, director of outreach at the American Association of People with Disabilities, said more than 35 million people with disabilities were eligible to vote in 2016. And he said the idea is to increase their political power.

"It's really a time for us working at the national level, as well as all of our partners at the state and local levels, to really focus on encouraging voter registration within their communities and supporting people with disabilities to get registered and engaged in the political process,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin noted that while access to the polls has improved for people with disabilities, there are still persistent barriers.

"Sometimes folks literally cannot get in the door if there are wheelchair users and polling locations are not wheelchair accessible,” he said. "Sometimes there isn't an accessible voting machine present or the machine isn't working. The issue of transportation is a huge one, especially for folks who live out in rural areas."

Baldwin added that amplifying the voice of those with disabilities should be important for all Americans, as they are an important part of the community.

"There are people with disabilities among communities of color, all different genders, sexual orientations,” he said. “It's also a community that anybody can join at any time. So it really is in everybody's interest to have a disability community that's able to fully participate in society. "

According to the latest data, national voter turnout among individuals with disabilities was 56 percent in 2012 - about six percent less than for those who do not have a disability. And if the rate was the same, almost 10 million more votes would be cast in each election.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI