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Iowans with Disabilities: More Voting Power, Fewer Restrictions

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Wednesday, August 31, 2022   

As of Tuesday, Iowans can begin requesting absentee ballots for the upcoming midterm elections, and as the process takes shape, advocates for people with disabilities hope the state is done enacting voting restrictions.

In 2021, the state adopted a series of election policy changes, including reducing the early voting period and limiting who can help deliver an absentee ballot.

Brooke Lovelace, executive director of the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, said the new restrictions are on top of barriers disabled voters routinely face.

"Transportation to the voting places is always an issue, and sometimes the voting places still are not accessible," Lovelace pointed out. "The poll workers may not be completely trained on how to best support a person with a disability."

Lovelace emphasized they want state lawmakers to realize this ahead of next year's legislative session. Earlier this year, Republicans wanted to add more restrictions, including a specific identification requirement for absentee ballots. The measures did not pass, but some are worried they will be floated again.

GOP supporters of the changes said it is a matter of election integrity. Such arguments are made despite election authorities noting instances of fraud are rare.

Lovelace noted the best way to improve the process is by boosting access, especially for overlooked populations.

"Everybody has a right to have their voices heard at the polls, and that includes people with disabilities," Lovelace argued. "There's lots of decisions that are made for people with disabilities without them being at the table, and their voting rights is something that they still have control over, and should."

In the 2020 election, nearly 62% of people with disabilities around the U.S. voted, up from 56% in 2016, and Lovelace added they do not want to hinder the progress.

The Council is pooling resources to educate individuals about the changes, and grants are available for self-advocates to train others how to vote.

Disclosure: Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities, Early Childhood Education, Health Issues, and Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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