The National Coalition for Accessible Voting (NCAV) applauds our sister organizations in states around the country joining litigation to combat voter suppression. In particular, we send our appreciation to Georgia ADAPT, The Arc Georgia, and the Georgia Advocacy Office, for joining the fight against Georgia’s voter suppression law, S.B. 202. All three groups are the first disability organizations to become plaintiffs in a newly amended complaint in AME Church v. Kemp that explains how S.B. 202 violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
As in many states with strong voter turn-out, especially from people of color and people with disabilities, Georgia passed S.B. 202 to prevent a recurrence of the successful Get-Out-the-Vote efforts in the 2020 election cycle. While the intent of the law may have been to make it harder for people of color and low-income people to vote, its effects may be most severe on people with disabilities – especially low-income people with disabilities in communities of color.
“In Georgia, one of the main reasons people with disabilities were able to cast their ballots was because absentee voting was made more accessible. 44% of people with disabilities in Georgia voted absentee. Now, Senate Bill 202 will make it harder to apply for an absentee ballot, and harder to return an absentee ballot. S.B. 202 actually makes it a felony to ask your neighbor to take your absentee ballot to the dropbox,” said Curt Decker, National Disability Rights Network.
Voters with disabilities who do not have state-issued ID will need to find a way to photocopy and attach alternative documentation. Others will be deterred from voting absentee because they do not wish to place their private identity information in the mail (or in the hands of facility staff). Many voters with disabilities, who heavily rely on absentee balloting, will no longer be able to vote this way.
“Georgia voters who have already provided ID to register to vote should not be required to provide ID a second time to apply for, and then for a third time to vote with an absentee ballot for EACH and every election!” says Jim Dickson, Aid Association for the Blind.
“We are concerned that S.B. 202’s restrictions on ballot drop boxes, and elimination of mobile polling units will require voters with disabilities to travel longer distances to cast their votes,” said Kelly Buckland, National Council on Independent Living, “Transportation is one of the biggest hurdles for voters with disabilities. Given the lack of accessible public transit options available, any law that requires voters to travel more to vote will result in fewer people with disabilities participating in our electoral process.”
By limiting other opportunities to vote, S.B. 202 will result in more people queueing up to vote in-person. Longer lines at the polls are a hardship for everyone, but especially voters with disabilities. What will make the lines even harder is the cruel ban on providing anyone in line with food, drink, or a seat to rest on.
“Preventing a volunteer, election official, or fellow voter from offering a drink, snack, or seat to a voter is simply unconscionable,” said Maria Town, American Association of People with Disabilities. “People with disabilities are tough – you have to be. But a voter with a disability may not be able to withstand hours-long lines. This bill sends a clear message to voters with disabilities: ‘You are not welcome here.’”
Individually and in combination, provisions of S.B. 202 will deter or prevent many Georgians with disabilities from voting altogether. This is unacceptable and antithetical to our coalition’s mission.
The National Coalition for Accessible Voting is dedicated to protecting and advancing the disability vote. We stand in solidarity with all the plaintiffs in the lawsuit – including the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Women Watch Afrika, Latino Community Fund Georgia, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And, we commend our sister disability organizations for highlighting the ways that the legislation discriminates against qualified voters with disabilities, in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The National Coalition for Accessible Voting
* The mission of the National Coalition for Accessible Voting is to make sure that everyone with a disability can vote in private and on their own. *
American Association of People with Disabilities
Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
National Council on Independent Living
National Disability Rights Network
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
World Institute on Disability