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Disenfranchise the Disabled? Republican Laws May Deny Vote to the Blind

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Are you, or is someone you love, among America's thirty-five million voters with a disability?

If so, you hold power in the 2012 elections. If the disability community turns out in force, the side you pick will almost certainly win.

In 2006 a prediction was made: "If people with disabilities voted at the same rate as the non-disabled, 10 million more votes would have been cast in the last Presidential election -- a major voting bloc... "

In 2008, we had a hint of that power, when disability voters fought as a bloc, essentially equaling the able-bodied turnout at the polls: "... turnout for (both) these populations estimated at 59 percent..."

The majority of the disability vote (50 percent-44 percent) went to Barack Obama.

Would voters with disabilities tend to support Democrats?

Consider that if you are disabled, you may well have financial problems: "In 2000, 8.7 million people with disabilities were poor (17.6 percent) -- a substantially higher proportion than was found among people... without disabilities (10.6 percent)."

The disabled have additional medical problems. Only 13 percent of those with a severe disability report their health as very good or excellent. Compare that to non-disabled folks -- 73 percent of whom report their health as very good or excellent.

Those who suffer may be more likely to support government programs -- which puts them on the opposite side of the fence from anti-tax Republicans.

Across the country, Republicans are imposing voter-suppression laws which may disenfranchise literally millions of the disabled, the elderly, minorities, students, and the poor.

Even if you voted last time, and you think you are all registered and ready to go, when you show up to vote in 2012, a nasty little surprise may be waiting: "Where is your government issued photo ID? Don't you have a driver's license?"

According to the League of Women Voters, as many as 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo IDs.

Eleven per ent? Twenty-one million voters with their participation at risk? This is no accident, but a carefully planned assault on democracy.

Requiring a driver's license for voting could deny blind citizens their right to vote. Approximately 3.4 million Americans are blind -- how many have driver's licenses?

A passport is also acceptable as Voter ID -- but if a disabled person is too poor for international traveling, would they have a passport?

But, Republicans may counter, voter IDs are given free by some states, even those with voter-suppression laws? Read the small print. First, getting those "free" voter IDs may involve hidden fees, and require documents you may not have handy, like a birth certificate -- where is yours?

Often among the working poor, disabled citizens may not be able to afford time off from work to locate documentation, which must then be takes to the Department of Motor Vehicles to register.

Republicans may go so far as to shut down registration offices...

For instance, immediately after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a voter suppression law for his state, he announced the closure of 10 DMV offices.

Visit the Wall of Shame website to see if your state is listed.

Restrict voter rights? What is the rationale for such un-American activity? Republicans claim voter fraud is a major threat, with lots of people pretending to be someone else so they can vote two times.

Is this accurate? Hardly. In some states mandating voter ID legislation, voter fraud has NEVER occurred. It is hard enough to get people to vote once, let alone twice -- but the propaganda is repeated anyway.

Hopefully, Americans with a disability will register and vote, no matter what, here is a sentiment voiced by my paralyzed son, Roman Reed:

As he puts it, "Of course we are going to register and vote. That is our right and our duty. But it is not enough just to vote. We must also reach out to our friends in the community."

Enable the disabled! Each one, reach one! Wheelchair warriors, spread the word: Are you registered to vote this year? Got a ride to the polls? If you got one, give one! People in chairs cannot always negotiate a ride.

And reassure every friend with disabilities that they are welcome at the polls. National law requires that voters with a disability be assisted. If a person cannot get down from the car to access their voting rights, curbside voting should be available: the equipment to vote can be brought out to the car.

Here is a non-partisan number for voting questions: 1-866-OUR-VOTE. When you call, they will ask what state you want, and then transfer you to someone who will tell you exactly what needs to be done in your state so you will not be cheated out of your vote.

If registered and encouraged (we all need that); will disabled folks turn out and vote?

One group, the Missouri Disability Vote Coalition, contacted "21,000 registered voters with disabilities (2002) in that state and achieved an impressive 70 percent turnout. The result was that persons with disabilities outvoted their non-disabled peers by 10 percent."

For questions on voting, look up your Secretary of State's phone number in the government page of your local phone book. They will be glad to help you. That is his or her job -- to make sure every eligible citizen can vote.

Remember in November.

Don't let your vote be lost.

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