By Leah Harris

Vote this November as if All of Our Lives Depend on It…Because They Do

Perhaps no election in recent memory carries as much weight as the 2020 General Election on November 3. The recent passing of civil rights leader Representative John Lewis was a reminder of the need to improve upon the Voting Rights Act and to honor his legacy through our actions today. In a moving eulogy in Rep. Lewis’ honor, President Barack Obama called for “revitalizing the law that he was willing to die for” by removing the many obstacles to enfranchisement, automatically registering all Americans to vote, and making Election Day a Federal holiday, among many other measures.

One area that does not get enough attention are the obstacles faced by people with disabilities in exercising their right to vote. Historically, people under conservatorship due to a mental health or other disability have been disenfranchised. Even after SB 589 was passed in 2015, which restored the right to vote to most people under conservatorship, thousands of people were disenfranchised in the 2016 election because they did not know about the change to the law, or how to access their voting rights. Disability Rights California has provided a sample letter for people seeking a review for the purposes of restoring their right to vote. 

If you’re not registered to vote, there is still time. The last day to register to vote online or by mail for the November 3, 2020, General Election is October 19, 2020. After October 19, 2020, it is more challenging, but you can still register and vote in the upcoming election. 

If you’re already registered to vote – great! Ask your peers, friends, neighbors, and family members if they are registered to vote. Offer to assist anyone who may be overwhelmed or confused about the voter registration process, or may have limited access to the Internet. If they feel that their vote doesn’t matter, talk to them about the vital importance of their voice and their vote. You can also engage people beyond your immediate social circles. Follow #CripTheVote on Twitter for national and international updates. You can also follow #DisabilityVoteCA on social media and share out why voting matters to you.

Voting is not a partisan issue. It is central to America’s future. As President Obama said in his eulogy for Rep. Lewis: “We cannot treat voting as an errand to run if we have some time. We have to treat it as the most important action we can take on behalf of democracy.” 

Further resources:

Voting by Mail is Essential for Voters with Disabilities, but it’s Not Enough (ACLU)