With the 2016 General Election just weeks away, do you know your voting rights as someone with a disability? According to the Arizona Revised Statute, A.R.S. §16-101, an individual cannot register to vote in Arizona if
- The individual has been convicted of a felony and has not yet had his or her civil rights restored
- The individual has been adjudicated incompetent
There are many misconceptions regarding the rights of voters with disabilities. Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), state and local governments are required to ensure that people with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote. These provisions include voter registration, site selection and casting of ballots on Election Day or during the early voting process. Additional federal civil rights laws further protect the rights of disabled voters with assurances including polling place accessibility, availability of alternative voting methods and accessible voting systems or devices.
Renaldo Fowler, Senior Staff Advocate for the nonprofit Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL), says, “Unless a person with a disability’s rights are taken away, that individual automatically has the right to vote.” That is not the case for individuals under “limited guardianship.” Fowler explains that the voter registration process for those individuals is more complex but not impossible. An ACDL brochure elaborates on that point. “A person for whom a limited guardian is appointed shall retain the right to vote if the person files a petition, has a hearing and the judge determines by clear and convincing evidence that the person retains sufficient understanding to exercise the right to vote.” During the hearing, the judge will speak with the petitioner to gauge the individual’s level of understanding of the candidates and/or the issues.
The general election is November 8, 2016. The voter registration deadline for this election is October 10, 2016. Although this doesn’t allow enough time for a disabled individual to exercise his or her rights in the petition process, anyone else with a disability and who is eligible to vote is encouraged to register immediately.
ACDL has set up an Election Day Voting Hotline to address issues related to accessibility, voting independently and voting devices. The number is 1-800-927-2260.
The following resources are available for more information on voter rights for the disabled:
By Vielka Atherton