My Vote Matters: Americans With Disabilities

More than ever, disabled Americans are voting. In the historic voter turnout of 2020, people with disabilities saw significant gains, according to a new report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the Program for Disability Research at Rutgers University (EAC). Mail-in ballots increased their turnout to 17.7 million, up from 16 million in 2016.

Yet, for far too long, politicians have ignored the disability community and have frequently failed to recognize it as a powerful ally in the fight for voting rights. 60% of polling locations still have barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from accessing the polls over three decades after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. Additionally, polling places may not be wheelchair accessible or equipped with assistive technology such as audio access for those who are visually impaired.

Some states are making this process easier. Disability advocates in Maine say the state’s online voting system is helping to increase turnout among this demographic. Some people with disabilities do not have reliable transportation to the polls. Maine is one of nine states that allow online voting for people with disabilities. In 2020, the pandemic prompted the state to introduce the Accessible Absentee Ballot. It gives disabled people the same voting privileges as Maine residents who are serving in the military or living abroad.

Some people with disabilities are under guardianship. In some cases, those requiring a guardian cannot vote. To have their right to vote reinstated, they must go before a judge. David Rector went to San Diego Superior Court in 2016 to ask to have his right to vote reinstated. After a brain injury left Rector unable to walk or speak, his fiance, Rosalind Alexander-Kasparik, was appointed as his guardian in 2011.

Judge Julia Kelety was skeptical. She asked Alexander-Kasparik to provide additional evidence. Alexander-Kasparik provided the court with a document outlining every step she and Rector had taken. She stated that she spends every day with Rector, allowing her to see that he can read, think, and analyze. She went over the new law’s provisions in detail. The judge restored Rector’s voting rights two weeks later.

Jack Vaile turned 18 in time to vote in the 2016 elections. He was excited to participate. Due to Jack’s Cerebral Palsy, his father, Lou, became his legal guardian when he turned 18. Because of this, Vaile was unable to vote. Vaile was devastated and went to court to have his voting rights reinstated.

Thousands of people under guardianship often lose their right to vote. According to federal survey data collected from 33 states by the Election Assistance Commission, over 7,300 people lost their ability to vote due to “mental incompetence” between 2012 and 2014.

Ten states automatically prohibit anyone who has been deemed intellectually disabled from voting. Missouri is one of them, having limited more voters than any other state, rescinding the rights of over 2,000 people due to intellectual disabilities during those election years.

Voting is just another opportunity for people with disabilities to use their experiences to influence policy decisions in their communities and country. Disabled people’s voices need to be heard. Disabled people are the largest minority in the world. Additionally, anyone can become disabled instantly due to an illness, accident, or injury. Those with disabilities may not be on the minds of some voters, but we are voting this year and not going anywhere.


Caprino, Kathy. “The World’s Largest Minority Might Surprise You, And How We Can Better Serve Them.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 14 Apr. 2016,

Carley, Kathryn. “More First-Time Voters with Disabilities Use Maine’s Online Voting System.” Public News Service, The Public News Service, 24 Oct. 2022,

Fong, Sabrina. “Why the Movements for Voting Rights and Disability Rights Are Strongest Together.” Ford Foundation, Ford Foundation, 25 May 2022,

Fessler, Pam. “Disabled And Fighting For The Right To Vote.” NPR, NPR, 4 Sept. 2016,

Kleinman, Avery J.C. “Blocked from the Ballot: Meet Jack Vaile, Who Has Cerebral Palsy.” 1A, WAMU, 17 Mar. 2020,

Walter, Shoshana. “Disabled and Disenfranchised: Families Fight to Restore Voting Rights.” Reveal, The Center for Investigative Reporting, 30 June 2021,

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