RI Advocacy Groups Mark National Disability Voter Registration Week With In-Person, Online Help

By Gina Macris

To mark National Disability Voter Registration Week – now underway – the Rhode Island Disability Law Center will hold a three-hour help session at the Providence Public Library, from 11 a.M. TO 2 P.M. Thursday, July 18, for those who want to get their names on the rolls. (This session was cancelled because of utility work at the library and will be rescheduled, according to Morna Murray, executive director of the Disability Law Center.)

At least two other advocacy organizations – the ARC’s Rhode Island Family Advocacy Network and the Rhode Island Disability Rights and Access Coalition – have launched on-line campaigns to call attention to the rights - and responsibilities – of all adult citizens to register and to vote.

The ARC links to an article in Time magazine which highlights cites a Rutgers University study showing that voting among those with disabilities surged 8.5 percent between 2014 and 2018 nationwide.

But the increase in voting among citizens without disabilities for the same period was 11.9 percent, or 4.7 percent more, the study said.

In Rhode Island, the proportion of voters with disabilities increased 5.3 percent between 2014 and 2018, but among those without disabilities, the surge was 8.6 percent, according to the study.

A total of 14.3 million citizens with disabilities voted in 2018. If people with disabilities voted at the same rate as people without disabilities who have the same demographic characteristics, there would be about 2.35 million more voters, according to the study.

In an email blitz, the Family Advocacy Network included both a telephone number, 401-222-2340, and a link https://vote.sos.ri.gov/ to the website of the Rhode Island Secretary of State, whose office handles voter registration.

Rhode Islanders who have contact with the Division of Motor Vehicles are automatically registered to vote. But many adults with disabilities don’t drive. They may register to vote online, as long as they have a photo ID acceptable to the Secretary of State. A full discussion of acceptable voter identification appears here:

Meanwhile, the Rhode Island Disability Rights and Access Coalition chose this week to launch an Empowering People With Disabilities Campaign through 2020 to register Rhode Islanders to vote and remind them to participate in elections. The campaign links to a customized webpage that lists options for starting the registration process, checking on registration status, requesting an absentee ballot, or choosing an election reminder.

The coalition is also planning events, beginning in the fall, to teach people importance of civic engagement and getting people register to vote, according to a spokeswoman.