Havre Daily News - News you can use

Remember the right to vote - and exercise it

 

March 16, 2020



I want to remind adult Montanans with disabilities that we have the right to vote.

With a very narrow exception for people with guardians who have explicitly had their right to vote suspended as part of guardianship proceedings, we have the right to vote along with all other vote-eligible Montanans. Our right can’t be impeded by polling locations or ballots that are difficult or even impossible for us to cast independently.

A slew of laws had to be passed to remove these barriers. Starting with the Voting Rights Act of ’65, VAEHA in ’84, Americans with Disabilities Act Title II in ’90, NVRA in ’93, and Help America Vote Act in ’02, among others, the law clearly states that people with disabilities are in fact citizens and do have the right to vote unimpeded. Though barriers remain, these laws give us the right and responsibility as citizens to continue to exercise right, to be active constituents and participate in the process.

These laws prohibit states from disqualifying voters solely because of disability status, allow for necessary assistance to vote, mandate providing accessible polling places and alternate means of voting, increase voter registration opportunities and affirm your right to privacy.

The default for our nation and communities as a whole has been to institutionalize people with disabilities. Over many years we have been housed in institutions, nursing homes and hidden away. If we want to live independently in our communities we need to vote, and as constituents, share our voices with elected officials — on issues related to health care, transportation, housing, environmental safety, employment, education and other concerns that hit our communities first and often with the lifelong consequences.

Along with voting for national officials, electing state representatives that represent your interests in health care and other arenas is key. You can also vote directly on local and statewide issues — such as recent direct-to-voter ballot measures in 2018: I-185 — Medicaid funding, and LR-129 — ballot collection, both of which had (or might have had) a large impact on people with disabilities.

I ask that you exercise your right to vote, and encourage you to share your stories and submit topics that are important to you to the Montana Disability Voices webpage and Facebook page.

It is important that we remind our elected officials that we are, and will continue to be, citizens who have every right to live in our communities alongside other Montanans.

——

Justice Ender is a communications associate at the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities at the University of Montana, a person with a disability, and is a member of Montana Disability Voices whose mission is to facilitate communication between policy makers and individuals with disabilities to improve the lives of Montanans.

Online: Montana Disability Voices: https://www.mtdisabilityvoices.org

MDV Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/montanadisabilityvoices

 

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