Commentary: Disabled voters figure to loom large in 2020

The Disabilities Law Program (DLP) of Community Legal Aid Society Inc. (CLASI) is promoting a national effort to make the disability vote more influential. This effort, known as the REV UP Campaign, has designated July 15-19, 2019 as National Disability Voter Registration Week.

In 2020, approximately 23% of the American electorate — over 35 million individuals — will be people with disabilities. As demographic changes are unfolding, it is becoming increasingly clear that voter turnout is more diverse than ever. However, many candidates are missing the impact of the disability vote.

According to a new report by Dr. Lisa Schur and Dr. Douglas Kruse at Rutgers University, “voter turnout surged by 8.5 points in 2018 among citizens with disabilities relative to the 2014 midterm elections.”

This turnout surge indicates that disabled voters will be an increasingly powerful voting bloc in 2020. The report also shows a significant increase in the disability vote in states such as: Texas, New Jersey, Florida, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. In Delaware, the “disability gap,” which measures the difference between turnout in voters with and without disabilities, shrunk by almost 2%. REV UP (which stands for Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!) is a non-partisan initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities — in partnership with numerous disability organizations around the country — to build the influence of the disability vote and increase the political power of the disability community.

Individuals can register in a number of ways: online, at a mobile registration event, by mail or at certain government offices. Staff at some social service agencies can process registrations if they have been trained by the Delaware Department of Elections. Some CLASI staff have been trained to process in-person voter registrations and can provide application materials.

Voters are encouraged to use the web-based application to register to vote or update their voter registration information at https://ivote.de.gov/voterlogin.aspx. Alternatively, there are registration forms available for download or by mail.

Delaware has special processes available for military and overseas citizens. Government offices with registration capabilities include the DMV, State Service Centers, and the Department of Labor, if the voter is a client of that agency.

For more information about the DLP, visit the CLASI website at www.declasi.org. or call 302-575-0660.

Laura Waterland is project director for the Disabilities Law Program of Community Legal Aid Society Inc. in Wilmington.

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