#AdvocacyMatters: Answering the Call

November 6, 2020 / #AdvocacyMatters

With a mission of creating a society where people with disabilities are full and equal members, advocating for a free, fair, and accessible election process is front and center in our work. In the weeks and months leading up to Tuesday’s election, we organized and mobilized information and resources to help ensure that every Ohioan with a disability was able to exercise their right to vote. And while all that information surely helped individuals craft their own voting plans, the real work began when polling places opened and day-of voting began. Before the sun came up on Tuesday, DRO lawyers and advocates sat ready to answer calls to our Election Day Hotline…. and when the voting began, so did the calls.

We received calls from voters in several different counties with questions or concerns about curbside voting. As the only election in the last 100 years to take place amid a global pandemic, we anticipated that many more Ohioans would need to vote curbside than usual - a right that was affirmed by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office to all 88 counties ahead of the election. In each case, we ensured the voter understood their protected right to vote curbside and what they had to do to access this option. We also followed up as necessary to ensure curbside voting was being offered as promised, in one instance going as far as making a visit to a polling place to check.

We received calls from hospitals and other facilities wondering how their patients and residents could vote. We worked with the voters, the facilities, and their local board of elections to ensure as many of them were able to vote as possible. Navigating the different rules governing the voting process for residents of long-term care facilities compared to those who are unexpectedly hospitalized, we resolved many of these cases and ensured patients and residents got to vote.

In many cases, we simply answered questions to help each voter arm themselves with information to protect their vote. With questions ranging from “I didn’t receive my absentee ballot” to “where do I park for curbside voting?” and “do I need to prove my disability?", a few minutes on the phone with our DRO team helped people finalize their voting plan and further ensured their participation.

We don’t measure our success in election outcomes, we measure it in election participation. While steps forward may have been taken, barriers to equal voting access still stand in the way. #AdvocacyMatters in tearing them down, bit by bit.

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