By John M. Williams
Posted July 31, 2000
Nationwide there is a movement, led by the National Organization on Disability with assistance from 36 national agencies representing disabled people, to increase voting turnout this year by at least 700,000 disabled people. This is a very laudable goal. I hope N.O.D. exceeds its goal. It's a goal that must and can be accomplished once people with disabilities realize they must vote. Why should you vote? Because for the first time in the history of the country, people with disabilities can determine the outcome of national elections. People with disabilities have a lot at stake in the November election, and they should realize it now.
I have voted in every local, state and national election I could since I turned 21 in 1966. I take my responsibility to vote seriously. As a young man, my father planted the seeds for my voting by taking me to the polls when he voted. As a student in college, I volunteered to drive people to polls to vote. To me, voting is my way of determining the direction I want my country to go. Even if my candidates lose, I am satisfied that I have exercised my duty as a citizen and have exercised my first amendment right - freedom of speech. Of course, I am happier when my candidates win.
In November, the country will elect either Democrat Vice President Al Gore or Republican Texas Governor George Bush president. The election will determine whether the House of Representatives remains under Republican control or is returned to Democratic control, and it will also determine if the Republicans have a wider margin of control in the U.S. Senate or if their numbers are reduced.
Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, reformist or a member of the Green party by voting in November you are deciding whether you want a liberal or conservative government. Your vote decides whether we have a president who will appoint liberal, moderate or conservative Supreme Court justices.
Your vote can determine whether we have one party controlling all three branches of government or if we have divided government.
Your vote will decide whether you want more money spent on education, especially the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, more accessible housing, more accessible transportation, more access to assistive technology and the degree to which you want your civil rights enforced.
Your vote will also decide whether we have cleaner air, more restrictive access to guns and gun violence, tougher educational standards, more police on the streets, an affordable prescription drug plan, access to affordable health care and a more equitable tax code.
People with disabilities have a responsibility and a right to vote. With rights come responsibility and responsibility means voting.
By voting you show yourself, your friends, your community, your country that you care about your future and the country's future.
By voting you are becoming visible, and people with disabilities need to become visible. Your visibility shows others you are an active citizen. It shows people you can think. To many people without disabilities, a thinking person with a disability is a revelation.
There are many ways for you to vote. (Be sure you register to vote. The deadline for voting regisration for most of the country is October 10.) All the political parties are urging people to register to vote. The party of your choice will help you register to vote and then should drive you to the polls on election day.
You can vote by going to the polling booth or by absentee ballot. There
are voting booths designed to help people with disabilities vote. Your
local board of elections will supply you with an absentee ballot.