As the 2022 elections approach, Michigan groups work to educate political campaigns how to become more accessible to voters with disabilities.
Across the country in recent years, voters with disabilities have vote 6% less often than their non-disabled peers. And Dessa Cosma, Executive Director of Detroit Disabled Powersaid it’s often because of systemic barriers.
This can mean that information about voters, polling stations or ballot marking devices are inaccessible, and because candidates do not always target this group of voters or talk about disability issues.
“So we have to design our campaign culture,” Cosma said, “as well as how we communicate with voters, with disability awareness, accessibility and inclusion in mind, if we really want to achieve the more people. “
In 2020, 11% of voters with disabilities said they had difficulty voting.
Cosma added the guide contains information not only about voters with disabilities and the issues, but also how to set up a campaign from scratch. She said it guides readers in budgeting, creating a message, and even understanding naysayers.
In a big city like Detroit, Cosma noted that it can be difficult to ensure that all polling places are accessible and that all poll workers have accessibility training.
She said polling places must have ballot-tagging devices, known in Michigan as VATS — voter assistance terminals — and that poll workers receive training on how to use them. .
But she added that training often happens quickly and may not be seen as a priority.
“It happened to me,” Cosma said. “I show up to vote, and no one in the precinct knows how to use the voter assistance terminal. And then it’s me who has to suffer – either not being able to vote or wondering if my ballot vote is actually counted – because there was no one there who really knew how to use the machine.”
About one in four adults in the United States has a disability, and if you include families, friends and caregivers, that’s millions of Americans who care deeply about these issues.
Cosma said she hopes the guide will help campaigns attract more community members to their coalitions.
Support for this report was provided by Carnegie Corporation of New York.