My friend, Sara, posted on her feed today, “In what other situation does a poor man and a rich man get the same exact say? One vote each! Use it!” This is a brilliant perspective of the power of voting in the United States. This applies to individuals with disabilities as well. We by and large are an invisible population with muted voices, except on election day.
The most common way for individuals with disabilities to vote is by using the absentee voting process. My procrastination left me unprepared for this midterm election. Consequently, I missed the deadline to register and vote with an absentee ballot. However, my lack of planning was not going to stand in the way of having my vote count in this current election. In the future, however, this will most likely be my method of voting. Early voting can be done by mail or at your local city hall. In some cases, you have to provide a justification for voting with an absentee ballot. Individuals with disabilities should have no issue qualifying. Click here to apply for an Absentee Ballot.
Free Public Transportation
I am very fortunate to live in a city that provides free transportation to the polls. Amalgamated Transit Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the United Steel Workers, and the Marathon County Central Labor Council have sponsored free public transportation for voters today. Having free public transportation lifts the transportation and financial barriers so all voices can be heard.
Additionally, Uber and Lyft are also offering reduced fares for voters. Many dedicated citizens are making sure every voice is heard and every vote is counted, by offering personal rides to the polls. Facebook is one way to see if anyone in your area is offering free rides.
A more recent method for individuals with disabilities to vote is curbside voting at the polls. My mom read about it when a Facebook friend posted this “I just learned something new. At most polling locations, right outside the entrance, there is a black post with a blue handicap button. If you push this button, and are handicapped, a poll worker will come to you or even to your car with a ballot.”
I posted photos on Facebook of my experience with curbside voting. Several of my Facebook friends stated they did not have the same access to this method. I appreciate that my city considers the challenges of disabilities and voting. This should be an option for all voters with disabilities, as well as elderly voters. This is especially beneficial on cold, rainy days like today! It is also a method that would benefit parents of young children. However, my friend, Sara stated that she purposefully took her young children to model the democracy foundation of our country.
My mom and I drove over to Wausau West High School. We immediately saw the pole with the blue button. It was a good thing we read about this, as this voting location was super busy. There were no accessible parking spots open and the crowded parking lot posed a danger for me. My mom pulled right up to the curb and went to push the button.
She pushed the button several times and waited. Unfortunately, no one came out to help. She went in to see if the button was even working. A poll worker came out and tested it, sure enough it was working. However, the voting location was in the gym of the high school. With the noise of the voters and the gym class, the poll worker in charge of the button was unable to hear it. She was also in charge of scanning the ballots, and the speaker was behind her.
I had to register and was able to do that in the car as well. However, my mom had to take it back in the building. She returned shortly with 2 poll workers. Two poll workers were required for compliance. My mom filled in the circles for me and then we handed it back to the workers. I appreciate the efforts of this system, however, it was flawed.
Problems with Curbside Voting
Other than the fact that the assistance button went unheard, I was not able to vote anonymously. Poll workers are not prevented from glancing at my ballot. I trust my mom (and my other caregivers) to fill out my ballot without judgement or feeling intimidated. However, I wish my ballot was not just handed back to the poll workers exposed.
Another issue is the distance of the button. True curbside voting would allow voters to remain in their vehicles. I would suggest placing the buttons directly on the curbside. It would also be beneficial to have a designated worker for the curbside voters. The poll workers strongly encouraged me to use the absentee ballot in the future. I can understand why, experiencing the issues first hand. However, there is something to be said about going to the polls directly. I compare it to celebrating Christmas early, the spirit is just not that same.
Regardless of how you vote…at the polls, City Hall or in the comfort of your home…just vote. As my friend, Sara, stated, it is the one day everyone in the Unites States is truly equal.
Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’
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