Jewish Values in Action
Resources for Assisting Elderly and Disabled Voters
Jewish tradition teaches us of our obligation to ensure equal access for all people and to help facilitate the full participation of individuals with disabilities in our communities. The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 require that all polling locations be physically accessible to people with disabilities. Unfortunately, due to poor enforcement, many polling locations lack adequate accommodations, such as ramps and elevators. As a result, according to the National Organization on Disability, individuals with disabilities register to vote at a rate 16-20% lower than the rest of the population. More than 35 million voting-age people (roughly one-fifth of the population) have a disability, so reducing the discrepancy in voter turnout could have a significant impact on election results.
There are a number of ways JCRCs can help ensure that congregants with disabilities are able to cast their ballots and make their voices heard on Election Day.
- Coordinate with other Jewish organizations that work with seniors and individuals with disabilities to encourage them to vote.
- Make calls or visits to senior and/or disability groups to discuss voting options. Bring a copy of voter registration forms and assist in filling out and mailing in the forms.
- Supply individuals with information they need about upcoming elections. For example, supply large-print copies of informational materials or provide rides to and from community forums.
- The Help America Vote Act requires all polling places to have at least one accessible voting machine for voters with vision impairments. However, not all voters may be comfortable using these machines. Federal law mandates that blind voters be permitted accompaniment by an aide of their choice to help them vote. Offer to accompany a blind community member to the polls, taking care to assure the person that you will fill out the ballot according to his or her preference.
- Check in advance to make sure your local polling locations are fully accessible to individuals with disabilities using this ADA Checklist. Contact your local Board of Elections if accommodations are not available.
For more information about accessibility, absentee voting, and more, visit the American Association of People with Disabilities Disability Vote Project at www.aapd.com/what-we-do/voting/disability-vote-project.html.