USA- Voters with intellectual disabilities

To read on Boise Weekly website:

Idaho’s Forgotten Voters

Citizens with a disability or without a home make up significant voting blocks

Voters

Rochelle Rohrer(right), a staff member at The Arc Idaho, helps Shelley Rockane read through her ballot options. Rockane is casting her vote for the first time in November, and is very excited about voting for Hillary Clinton.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, only weeks until Election Day, five women sat in a circle of folding tables, contemplating the sample ballots in front of them. They were part of a weekly women’s group meeting at The Arc Idaho, a nonprofit agency that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. On this particular day, the group’s participants had joined the national conversation about the upcoming election.

An Arc staff member in bright pink sneakers walked among the participants, offering to help read ballots and quizzing the women on where they might go to vote and what paperwork they might need. Another staff member led each woman to a mock polling booth in the hall to let them practice voting.

Enthusiasm was mixed.

« It’s my duty to exercise my right to vote, » said Sherrie Williams. She voted for Obama in 2012 and is excited to vote in this election.

Sitting across the circle from Williams was Katie Oliver. The process is confusing, she said, adding she didn’t like the « garbage and inappropriate talk » from the candidates.

« I try to stay out of it, » she said. « I won’t vote. »

Regardless, staff at The Arc hope to promote a simple message: They can.

According to the American Association of People with Disabilities, there are 35 million eligible voters with some kind of disability this election year—a whopping 17 percent of the electorate. In Boise, groups like The Arc of Idaho and DisAbility Rights Idaho educate those voters on their rights and help make sure their needs are met.

Scott Hoover is a senior advocate for DisAbility Rights Idaho. Hoover works to protect voters with disabilities under the authorization of the federal Protection and Advocacy for Voter Access program. Hoover spends his days meeting with potential voters, reminding them of their rights and talking about accessible voting tools. On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Hoover will once again spend Election Day at his desk, taking calls from voters with disabilities and working as quickly as possible to assist them through the voting process. Recently, he stood before a group of 18- to 21-year-olds who attend the Boise School District’s Student Transition Education Program for high-school graduates with disabilities.

« We are here to serve you. To make sure the community doesn’t walk over you just because you have a disability, » said Hoover.

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