Adina Topfer, email@example.com, writes:
If Americans with disabilities vote at the same rate as people without disabilities there would be at least five million additional votes cast November 7, 2000. A major reason for the failure of most Americans with disabilities to vote is that 14 million voting-age Americans with disabilities are not registered to vote. While the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) (http://www.nod.org/vote2000/nvrabackground.html) makes voter registration available at motor vehicle and public assistance agencies, many persons with disabilities are not being reached. For this reason, Section 7a of the NVRA requires all public and private agencies serving people with disabilities to offer voter registration to their clients at in-take, re-certification, and change of address. If an agency's services are not provided in agency offices the person who provides itinerant services must also offer voter registration services. If the consumer declines to register to vote the agency must obtain the individual's signature on a declination form and keep that form on file for 22 months.
Some agencies, but by no means all, that are covered under this law include: Vocational Rehabilitation; Special Education; Commissions for the Deaf and the Blind; Paratransit Providers; Independent Living Centers; disability specific service providers such as ARCs, MS Society, Epilepsy Foundation, Muscular Dystrophy Associations, etc. Most disability agencies are in violation of the NVRA. A 2000 National Organization on Disability/Harris poll reports that only 44% of people with disabilities have been asked by a service provider to register to vote.
In order to make sure that people with disabilities have a voice in government, they must prove that they have voting power. It is thus incumbent on all American's with disabilities to ensure that their local public and private agencies are obeying the law and offering registration to their consumers. The following helpful advice can be provided to aid any organization in their effort to come into compliance.
How Disability Agencies Can Comply with the NVRA
"Non-partisan" means that the activity or program shall not be influenced by, affiliated with, or supportive of the interests or policies of any political party or candidate. Support for candidates of two parties in an election ("bipartisanship") is not a non-partisan activity. You need to put up a sign that reads:
"Our voter registration services are available without regard for the voter's political preference. Information and other assistance regarding registering or voting, including transportation and other services offered, shall not be withheld or refused on the basis of support for or opposition to a particular candidate or particular political party."
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. Can my organization work in a coalition with other groups
that conduct voter registration, education, and get-out-the-vote programs?
A. Yes, as long as the effort is non-partisan. Participating organizations and individuals cannot make any statements in support of or in opposition to any particular candidate or party, or conduct any other activity designed to reflect a preference or recommendation for any political party or candidate.
Q. Can vehicles owned by non-profit organizations be used to
transport voters to the polls? Can drivers employed by the organization
transport voters to the polls?
A. Yes to both questions. You can even affix nonpartisan messages to vehicles encouraging voters to go to the polls. However, make certain that the vehicles and the drivers do not display any partisan literature, buttons, posters, flyers, bumper stickers or other political propaganda.
Q. Can a staff person registering voters in a 501(c)3 agency
button or put a bumper sticker on his/her car that has the name of a favored
A. No, not while registering the voters. This caution does not apply to referenda; you may urge citizens to "support or stop Proposition X."
Q. Can my agency place posters in conspicuous places?
A. Yes, as long as they do not refer to political parties or candidates.