Commentary

06.01.15

Online for All: Katie’s Story

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Online For All logo

This is the third article in the “Online for All” series.

It’s amazing what you can learn by saying hello to somebody you don’t know.

I met Katie at a crowded eatery while she waited for a table with her family. She was in a wheelchair. I introduced myself as a volunteer for the ACLU of Ohio, and expressed interest in the difficulties faced by Ohioans with disabilities registering to vote.

Katie’s Story

Katie and her sister invited me to sit with them when a table became available. She told me she has multiple sclerosis, and only can get around in her wheelchair or with her walker. I asked her if she was a voter.

“No way to sign up,” she said. “I have difficulty in getting a ride. The whole process is too difficult.”

Watch “Online for All,” and learn why it’s important for Ohio to have an online voter registration system.

I told her that many states have full online voter registration for those who want to register to vote. In Ohio, however, she would have to fill out a voter registration application form either in person, or send by mail to her county board of elections, or she also could turn in the completed form at other designated public offices, such as county treasurer’s office, high school, or library.

“A Good American Even So”

Katie said she tried register at her neighborhood library, but was frustrated by the board of elections website; she felt intimidated by the online questions required to download a mail-in application form. She had lost her Social Security card years ago, didn’t remember her number, and had no driver’s license.

I told her about “Online for All,” the ACLU of Ohio public awareness campaign for online voter registration in Ohio. She thought registering online would be a very good thing.

Read the blog series: “Online For All” Makes All the Sense in the World,” and “Voter Registration: Ohio Needs to Join the 21st Century.”

While she doesn’t vote, she did state that she is “a good American even so.” And, wow, does she have political opinions! She doesn’t like U.S. military involvement anywhere in the Mideast, and feels we should have “young presidents from now on that can handle our troubles.”

Let’s Get Ohio on Board

Polling place

It’s a terrible shame when hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities in our state, like Katie, facing the unique challenges they do, cannot register easily and effectively to exercise their rights to participate in our democracy. Katie didn’t ask for her disability, doesn’t seem to complain about the hard knocks she’s endured, and definitely is proud to be an American.

It’s high time we in Ohio make our elected officials understand and commit to providing an accessible online voter registration system. If we all pitch in, it will be “in the cards” for Katie, and other Ohioans with disabilities, who will have a lot to say when they are able to vote.

Fred Ross is a volunteer with the ACLU of Ohio.

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