New legislation would increase the accessibility of voting, running for office, and serving in local government
Casey: “Our democracy is stronger and better off when every American has the opportunity to fully participate”
Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Rules Committee, introduced a package of legislation to make American democracy more accessible for people with disabilities. For many Americans with disabilities, certain barriers make it disproportionately difficult to vote, run for elected office, or serve in local government. The Accessible Voting Act would support state and local efforts to improve voter accessibility and remove barriers to voting. The Removing Access Barriers to Running for Elected Office for People with Disabilities Act would ensure people with disabilities do not lose their crucial, life-sustaining federal disability benefits when they campaign for elected office. The AID (Accessibility and Inclusion to Diversify) Local Government Leadership Act would provide local governments with limited budgets with funding to support accommodations for local elected officials with disabilities. In the House of Representatives, Rep. Madeleine Dean introduced companions to the Removing Access Barriers to Running for Elected Office for People with Disabilities Act and the AID Local Government Leadership Act, and Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon introduced a companion to the Accessible Voting Act.
“Our democracy is stronger and better off when every American has the opportunity to fully participate. Yet for many people with disabilities, barriers remain to voting, running for office, and serving in local government,” said Chairman Casey. “This new suite of legislation will help tear down those barriers and ensure that people with disabilities are no longer disproportionately excluded from American democracy.”
“The opportunity to run for office and the responsibility to serve in local government should be possible for every American—yet too often people with disabilities face unnecessary barriers to public service,” Rep. Dean said. “This package of legislation will help ensure that federal disability benefits are not jeopardized while people with disabilities pursue elected office and that funding for vital accommodations are available in public office. By breaking down these barriers, our communities can be better represented by every voice. I'm thankful to Senators Casey and Klobuchar for their leadership.”
“Full participation in government is the bedrock of our democracy, but too often, Americans with disabilities face unnecessary barriers to accessing the ballot box, running for office, and serving in local government,” said Rep. Scanlon. “I'm proud to join Rep. Dean and Senators Casey and Klobuchar in introducing this suite of legislation that takes important steps to support people with disabilities, including many seniors and veterans, by addressing systemic inaccessibility across all aspects of civic life."
Despite federal laws requiring accessible voting places, barriers for people with disabilities and older adults still exist. Many older Americans are unable to secure transportation to the polls, and it can be challenging for them to stand in long lines to cast their ballot. The Accessible Voting Act will establish new programs for ensuring voting accessibility, including creating a national resource center on accessible voting and expanding the number of options for casting a ballot in federal elections.
For low-income people with disabilities, the threat of benefit loss essentially eliminates their option to run for elected office. The Social Security Administration can consider unpaid campaigning to be work and therefore may reduce or completely eliminate a person’s federal benefits, such as Social Security Disability Insurance. The Removing Access Barriers to Running for Elected Office for People with Disabilities Act would clarify to federal agencies administering disability benefits that campaigning for an elected office does not disqualify a person from receiving disability benefits.
The AID Local Government Leadership Act would provide local governments with an ongoing accommodations fund to ensure current and future elected officials with disabilities have access to needed accommodations to perform their duties. Eligible communities include those that are rural communities, have a population of less than 10,000 people or are communities with a population between 10,000 and 200,000 with a federal poverty rate of 18 percent or higher.