Why I Don’t Vote By Absentee Ballot

This week is National Disability Voter Registration Week. Are you registered to vote? If not, learn more here!

polling place, vote here signI’ve published posts here about the obstacles people with disabilities often run into at polling places, and after an op-ed piece I wrote about this appeared in the New York Daily News in 2016, people started asking me why I don’t just vote absentee. The answer is simple. To me, going to the polls is essential. There’s no substitute for the feel of a voting device in your hand or the sound of your vote actually registering. Voting at the polling place gives me a certainty that voting by absentee ballot can’t provide.

And I want my vote to count.

The National Voter Registration Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act and the Federal Rehabilitation Act guarantee the right to vote to all registered voters — including those of us with disabilities.

When I’m in the voting booth, I put headphones on to hear Text-to-Speech software translating the candidate selections on the ballot into spoken choices, I use a special keypad to choose my candidates by touch, and then I confirm my selections by voice again before my ballot is officially cast. It’s when I explain this process to others that I get those questions about voting absentee. “Why not save yourself the trouble,” some suggest with a shrug. “Vote absentee at home.” On a purely technical level, I won’t vote absentee as it’s historically fraught with challenges, including ballots getting damaged or lost, and in many cases not even counted.

It’s the larger imperative that compels me to the polls, however. Voters need to see people with disabilities out there voting with them. The astonished comments I hear from people waiting with my Seeing Eye dog and me in queue tell me they really do want me to vote.

Those of us with disabilities can’t let others forget about us. In the not-too-distant past, people with disabilities did stay home, not just on voting day, but perpetually. We can never go back to those days, and voting publicly is one way to ensure we don’t.


 

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