Voting Is My Super Power! Voting Tips For People Living With Brain Injury
Categories: Living with Brain Injury
By Flora Hammond, M.D., FACRM
- Voting gives you a voice in what happens in your city, county, state, and country.
- In general, people with disabilities vote less often than people without disabilities. When this happens, people with disability have less of a voice.
- Your vote matters! If you do not vote, you are letting other people make decisions for you. Some of these decisions may impact your rights and access.
- Voting is both a privilege and responsibility that goes along with being a United States citizen.
- Voting is your Super Power!
HOW DO I PREPARE TO VOTE?
- Make a plan!
- Register and remember to vote.
- Write important dates on your calendar or ask someone to remind you as the dates approach.
- Important dates include: voter registration, absentee ballot request and due date, and dates for Early Voting, and Election Day.
- Decide which election contests matter to you.
- Become informed. See suggestions below.
- Make notes and take your notes with you when you vote.
- Check on your state election board website to find out if you need identification (ID) to vote.
- Request absentee ballot if that is how you plan to vote. Follow the directions that come with the ballot to complete it and turn it in.
- Find out which polling place is your assigned voting location.
- Arrange for transportation to the polls if needed.
WHERE CAN I REGISTER TO VOTE?
- Voter registration locations and processes vary by state. Check before you go to make sure that the location is doing voter registration and confirm what documents you need to bring.
- Visit the online portal that walks you through the process for all states or check your county or state board of elections website).
- County board of elections office
- Public libraries
- Department of Motor Vehicles
- Social Services offices
- Post offices
- Town Halls
HOW DO I BECOME AN INFORMED VOTER?
- Decide what strengths you’re looking for in a candidate.
- Learn about the issues, and the candidates’ positions and leadership skills.
- Read newspapers, listen to radio, watch televised debates, talk to other people.
- Visit candidate’s website where it may list their positions on various topics.
- Obtain Voter Guides. Many newspapers and issue-specific organizations create voter guides such as the League of Women Voters.
- Learn how candidates and others may distort information.
- See Guide to Informed Voting here.
- Know who is running and what issues are on the ballot.
- Get the sample ballot. Sample ballots are often available from your County Board of Elections office, election precincts, early voting sites, libraries, or online.
WHERE DO I CAST MY VOTE?
Choose the process that is best for you. Here are a few options:
- Your assigned polling place on Election Day.
- Curbside at the polling site or your local Elections Office. If you cannot get out of your car and into the polling place, a poll worker can bring your ballot to your car. You will have to have a friend or family member go into the voting place and inform the poll worker you need curbside voting.
- A location that offers one-stop, no-excuses early voting (often starts 2-4 weeks before Election Day.)
- Absentee ballot allowing you to vote without leaving home. You must request the ballot before the election. You must follow the directions provided to submit the ballot.
WHAT IF I NEED A RIDE TO THE POLLS?
- Take public transportation to the polling place.
- Ask a family member, friend, neighbor, or someone else you trust about riding with them to the polling place.
- Contact the Party Headquarters (e.g. Democratic, Republican, or other) in your county. Remember, the parties and candidates want you to vote!
WHAT IF I NEED HELP VOTING?
- You can ask poll workers for the help you need. Poll workers cannot approach you to ask you if you need help, but you can ask them for the help you need. You can have the poll worker help with reading the ballot and using the voting machine.
- Someone can go with you and ask the poll worker for assistance on your behalf.
- Someone can also go with you to the polling place and into the voting booth to help you.
HOW CAN FAMILIES, FRIENDS, AND CARE PARTNERS HELP ME VOTE?
- Consider the possible obstacles to voting and think about how you could use help to overcome these obstacles.
- Examples of obstacles include: a lack of initiation, fatigue, a desire to avoid crowds, memory challenges, inability to drive, and difficulty with moving around or communicating.
- Mention to others that you are interested in registering and voting.
- Ask for help, if needed, with remembering important dates (registration, absentee ballot request)
- Discuss current events, political issues, and candidates with others.
Ask for assistance with voting as needed: “I would like your help with…”
- registering to vote
- remembering deadlines
- gathering information
- learning about the candidates
- getting a sample ballot
- making sure I have the right identification to vote
- requesting or submitting an absentee ballot
- getting a ride to the polls
- getting into the polling place
- reading the ballot
- Someone else can read the ballot and the choices and ask you to pick one of the choices. They cannot pick for you.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
- You have the right to vote.
- You have the right to ask for assistance in voting.
- You have the right to bring a friend or family member with you to help you vote.
- You have the right to have your disability fully accommodated.
- You have the right to ask the poll worker to explain how to use the voting machine.
- You have the right to ask for an accessible voting machine.
- You have the right to ask for a seat while you are waiting.
- You have the right to take your time while voting.
- You have the right to use curbside voting if you need it.
- You have the right to be treated with respect.
- You have the right to advocate for yourself.
WHAT ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES?
- You may have to ask for the specific help you need.
- You have the responsibility to become fully informed before voting
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
- National Disability Rights Network
- American Association for People with Disabilities Voter Resource Center
- U.S. Vote Foundation Online portal for registration, absentee ballots, election dates, and other information:
- Election Protection toll-free at (866) 687-8683 or online.
- USA GOV
- The Democracy Commitment: Guide to Informed Voting
- US Election Assistance Commission:
Partial support was provided under a grant by the National Institutes of Health (grants HD055202-01 and HD055202-02S1) and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (TBI Model Systems at Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation grant #90DRTB0002). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
“Voting Is My Super Power! Voting Tips for People Living With Brain Injury” was developed by Flora M. Hammond, M.D., FACRM; Mark A. Hirsch, Ph.D., FACRM; Christine S. Davis, Ph.D.; Julia Nelson Snow, M.A.; Martha Kropf, Ph.D.; Jason Karlawish, M.D. This information/education page may reproduced for noncommercial use for health care professional share with patients and their caregivers. Any other reproduction subject to approval by the publisher.
This information is not meant to replace the advice from a medical professional. You should consult your health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.
“What Affects Voter Turnout? Lessons from Citizens with Disabilities,” Social Science Quarterly, Vol. 81, No. 2, June 2000, pp. 571-587. By Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse.
Schur L, Adya M, Ameri M. Accessible democracy: Reducing voting obstacles for people with disabilities. Election Law Journal. 2015;14(1):60-65.
This article originally appeared in Volume 14, Issue 3 of THE Challenge! published in 2020.