Almost 62% of Americans with disabilities voted in 2020, largely due to pandemic-driven reforms to improve safety and accessibility, but disability advocates fear those turnout gains will be lost in 2022.
A major cause for concern is that state rules on when and how disabled Texans can be assisted at the polls are still unclear.
Passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature and signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in 2021, Senate Bill 1 limits any type of voter assistance to “reading the ballot to the voter, directing the voter to read the ballot, marking the voter’s ballot, or directing the voter to mark the ballot”.
The uncertainty surrounding the new rules creates anxiety for anyone whose job it is to help people with disabilities or help others vote.
If they break the law, Texans with disabilities and those paid to help them could face criminal penalties.
Texas law now also prohibits drive-thru voting, limits early voting hours, makes it illegal for an election administrator to send absentee ballot requests to anyone who has not requested one, limits who can request ballots. mail-in ballot and what qualifies as a disability and requires that the identification number on a mail-in ballot exactly match that of the voter’s original registration card.
If a hopeful voter used their Social Security number to register years ago but put their driver’s license number on their mail-in ballot, that would be grounds for rejection.
Texas Republicans said the law would make it ‘easy to vote, hard to cheat’, but thousands of legitimate mail-in ballots for the Texas primary election have already been rejected for non-compliance.
Will new Texas voting restrictions make it harder or less likely for people with disabilities to vote in 2022?
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*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, February 22.