#AdvocacyMatters: Barriers at the Ballot Box

April 29, 2022 / #AdvocacyMatters

Our vision of a truly equitable society can only become reality once all people - including those with disabilities - have free and fair access to the election process. Unfortunately, it remains abundantly clear that our “representative” democracy is anything but. The challenges facing many marginalized populations in exercising their right to vote have been built up over generations. It is only through steadfast advocacy that eventually – together – these can be overcome.

In the wake of the November 2020 general election, our team committed to investigating issues faced by Ohioans with disabilities as they attempted to cast their ballots. This review carried on through 2021’s local elections, ensuring a complete and accurate picture was captured. It was vital for our team to understand what accommodations were offered and functioning as intended as well as which ones weren’t. Only though this thorough process would meaningful, actionable steps come into focus.

Earlier this week we released Election Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities in Ohio, outlining the many shortcomings that remain in free and fair access to our elections. With a goal of educating the public and election stakeholders on major issues that affect voters with disabilities and creating opportunities for statewide collaboration to address these needs, this report explains the many barriers in detail and offers recommendations to address each one.

In short, availability and accessibility for voters who need certain accommodations remain inadequate and inconsistent. Our research found that voters who were home- or facility-bound, as well as those who were unexpectedly hospitalized, faced issues with awareness and execution of their ability to receive ballots delivered in person. Additionally, recently expanded accommodations like Curbside Voting lack clear direction and guidance from the state on how these processes should be localized and accessed at each polling place.

This report doesn’t signify an end to the work… in fact, just the opposite is true. With this new information and recommendations in hand, we will continue to advocate for truly free and fair election access for all Ohioans, including those with disabilities. As with every Election Day, our voter hotline will be available the entire time the polls are open next Tuesday. With election access a foundational stone on which our vision is built, our #AdvocacyMatters until every voice is heard and every vote counted.

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