Automatic voter registration would help Alabamians with disabilities
Voting has always been an essential part of American culture. Seen as a civic duty and honor, voting is a right many Americans take for granted. For individuals with disabilities, voting does not come as easily.
This analysis suggests that there are gaps in past voting behavior: 58 percent of disabled Americans voted in the 2014 midterm election, while 63 percent of Americans without disabilities say they did the same.
This year is an important election year.
In 2018, Alabamians will elect candidates to state and federal offices. Both the statewide primary on June 5 and the general election on November 6 will hold high stakes for people with disabilities in a state where 8.5 percent (the second highest number in the nation), of residents receive disability benefits.
Medicaid and mental health care are still underfunded.
The US House passed a bill in February that would weaken our ability to sue under the ADA. Unfortunately, differently abled Alabamians often face physical or cognitive difficulties in registering to vote. In 2018, this burden is unnecessary.
11 states, and Washington DC, have implemented automatic voter registration. Under this system, any eligible citizen (who does not object), is registered to vote when they submit information to a government agency such as the DMV.
During the first year of their automatic voter registration system, Oregon registered more than 225,000 residents based on interactions with the state’s department of motor vehicles, such as obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. Of those, nearly 100,000 voted in one month, a turnout rate of 43 percent, more than half the 80 percent rate among all registered voters in the state.
In contrast, Alabama allows voters to register by mail-in registration or online registration. The total number of citizens registered to vote in Alabama remains uncertain; however, one fact is certain. In a state with the second highest number of individuals with disabilities, and with Medicaid being underfunded, individuals with disabilities will want to vote.
If Alabama were to enact automatic voter registration this election year, it would benefit voting age citizens in general, and the poor and disabled in particular, who often interact with state agencies on a regular basis in order to request accommodations and services.