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Groups say Hoosiers With Disabilities Still Face Ballot Barriers

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020   

INDIANAPOLIS -- The pandemic has pushed the issue of voter access to the forefront, but for Indiana's disability community, it's more than just another talking point.

Voter turnout for people with disabilities was 6 percentage points lower than that of people without disabilities in the 2016 presidential election. Jessica Trimble, director of communication and outreach at Indiana Disability Rights, said typically the reason people with disabilities might forego casting a ballot is because of troubles they've encountered when voting in the past.

"So if they've had a negative past experience for any reason - be it transportation, be it the polling location, be it poll workers - the chance of them going to vote again drops significantly," Trimble said. "So that is a really big challenge that is really impacting a large community."

It's estimated nearly 60% of polling locations in the country are inaccessible in some way, shape or form.

This year all Indiana voters can cast a ballot early in person starting today. Absentee voting by mail is reserved for people who cannot physically be present to vote on Election Day and requires a documented excuse.

A recent study from Rutgers University found roughly 874,000 eligible voters in Indiana have a disability, which represents nearly 18% of the total electorate for the general election.

Director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress Rebecca Cokley contends election officials and candidates need to ensure everyone can cast a ballot.

"The disability vote matters," Cokley said. "The disability community saved the Affordable Care Act back in 2017. We are a strong community; we are a politically active community. And so it actually behooves them to make voting as easy as possible for people with disabilities."

Trimble advises Hoosiers with disabilities to vote in the manner they feel most comfortable, and if possible, to vote early and in person. She noted those who feel they need additional assistance can contact their local county clerk's office to request a travel board.

"The travel board is made up of a volunteer of each of the major political parties, and they actually bring a ballot to your house," Trimble said. "They can support you in completing the ballot if you need help, and then they make sure it's sealed, it's signed and it gets delivered to the clerk for you."

Voting information for individuals with disabilities is available at indianavoters.com.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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