(Today’s actions from Americans of Conscience, quote from – Lisa Schur, Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations.)
35.4 million people with disabilities were expected to vote in the 2016 presidential election. That was an increase of 7 percent over 2012 and represented nearly one-sixth of the total U.S. electorate at the time.
Action #1 – Check to see if our state has Automatic Voter Registration.
We do. CA was the 2nd of 15 states to adopt the process that makes voter registration an “opt-out” instead of “opt-in” option when eligible citizens interact with government agencies, like the DMV in CA, that provide this service. “Automatic voter registration” (AVR) makes voting easier for those with disabilities by eliminating the need to submit paper forms that are not accessible to them.
Action #2 – Thank our state legislators for their record on voting accessibility.
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson voted for the bill that created AVR – AB 1461 in 2015, as well as a lot of of other great voting legislation listed in the “Background” section below. Relatively new Assembly Member Monique Límon (2016) has also consistently supported voter accessibility legislation.
Minimal Script: I’m calling from [zip code] to thank [Senator Jackson/ Assemblymember Límon] for her efforts in bring fairness and access to all of California’s voters.
First, a little history on mental disability and voting rights:
“They are literally the last people in the U.S. who can get their right to vote stripped because of their identity. Having a (mental) disability does not mean you are not competent to vote.”- Michelle Bishop, an advocacy specialist at the National Disability Rights Network based in Washington.
Laws in 39 states, and Washington, D.C. (and until recently, California) allow judges to strip voting rights from people with mental disorders including autism, schizophrenia and Down syndrome who are deemed “incapacitated” or “incompetent.”
The Spectrum Institute Disability and Guardianship Project analyzed six months of court records and discovered that 90% of Californians with developmental disabilities placed under conservatorship in Los Angeles County lost their right to vote. Statewide, 32,000 Californians have lost their right to vote in the past decade.
Now, where our legislators contributed to making voting better for Californians.(Note: Límon was voted into office Nov. 2016. Sen. Jackson has served from Nov. 2012)
- “Clear and convincing evidence”: SB 589, in effect since 2016, states that the right to vote can be taken away only if a court finds “clear and convincing evidence” the person can’t express a desire to vote. California finally joined Maryland, Nevada and New Mexico in adopting a standard promoted by the Bazelon Center and the American Bar Association. The standard is simple – Can a person communicate, with or without accommodations, a desire to vote? Senator Jackson voted “YES” on this.
- Motor Voter Registration. (AB 1461)(AB 1407) In effect since 2018, when Californians apply for or renew their driver’s license or state ID card, they will be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out. The change has increased registrations by 26.8% Senator Jackson voted “YES” on both. Assemblymember Límon voted “YES” on AB 1407.
- Pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds. SB 113, in 2014, allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote. In 2017, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced the ability for 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register online, and their registration would become active automatically when they turn 18. In April 2018, Secretary of Alex Padilla shared that 200,000 California youth had pre-registered to vote. This bill was authored by Senator Jackson.
- Voter Choice Act pilots: SB 450 – the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) was approved in 2016. In 2018, five California counties (Sacramento, Madera, Napa, Nevada, and San Mateo) are piloting the VCA. The VCA provides voters with three choices on how to vote, including Vote-By-Mail, using a Ballot Dropbox, or voting at a Vote Center. Senator Jackson voted “YES” on this.
- Same Day Voter Registration: AB 1436, SB439 (Also known as “Conditional Voter Registration.” Starting in January 2017, voters who missed the voter registration deadline are still able to register and vote on the same day – even on Election Day. A voter can register after the deadline either online or by using a paper voter registration card, but they will then need to visit their county elections office or a designated location to vote. Senator Jackson voted “YES” on SB 439.
- Prepaid postage for mail ballots: AB-216, signed by Governor Brown in 2018, will require that the envelopes for mail-in ballots include pre-paid postage, eliminating one more obstacle to voting. The law goes into effect at the beginning of 2019. Senator Jackson and Assemblymember Límon voted “YES”.