Eligible Voters With Disabilities Increase By Nearly 20%
As the November election draws near, new research finds that the number of voters with disabilities across the nation has grown exponentially and could make the difference in how races are decided.
There are an estimated 38.3 million eligible voters with disabilities in the U.S., according to a report out this month from the Rutgers University Program for Disability Research. That represents an 19.8% increase since 2008 and outpaces a 12% rise in voters without disabilities during the same period.
Moreover, the researchers noted that when people with disabilities and the family members they live with are factored, disability issues are significant to 28.9% of the electorate.
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“The sheer size of the disability electorate makes it clear that people with disabilities and their family members have the potential to swing elections,” said Lisa Schur, a professor in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers and an author of the report. “While their partisan split is similar to that of other citizens, people with disabilities put a higher priority on health care and employment issues, so how candidates deal with those could be decisive.”
The report is based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014-2018 American Community Survey and Census population projections for 2020-2021.
The new figures suggest that there are more potential voters with disabilities than there are Black or Hispanic voters in this country.
Researchers behind the report cited a surge in turnout among people with disabilities in 2018 and said turnout could be especially strong this year given the expansion of mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Research from past elections shows that disability turnout was higher in states with all-mail or no-excuse mail ballot systems,” said Douglas Kruse, a professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers and an author of the report.
However, Kruse noted that mail-in ballots do pose accessibility issues for some. And, an audit out this week from the web accessibility software firm Deque Systems found that mail-in voting application forms in 43 states were “challenging or impossible to complete by many people with disabilities.”