This is the first article in the “Online for All” series.
Democracy will not thrive without recognizing the fundamental rights of all people.
When it comes to voter registration, without undue difficulty, that’s especially true. Making this process workable for all requires taking action on behalf of those facing obstacles.
“Online For All” is a new initiative of the ACLU. Its goals are to educate Ohioans about the difficulties in voter registration faced by people who have disabilities, and to advocate for measures to help those with a disability participate in our democracy.
The Numbers Are Big in Ohio
One in five people has some form of physical or mental disability. Of 8.9 million Ohio residents 18 or older, roughly 7.7 million are registered to vote; that leaves 1.2 million potentially eligible to vote but not yet registered. People with disabilities likely constitute more than 20 percent of these.
About 900,000 Ohioans have some mobility-related disability. For example, 200,000-plus Ohioans are deaf, while another 200,000-plus contend with some degree of blindness. A significant share of these citizens experience difficulty with the voting processes.
Add to these groups the people with other forms of disability. And this still doesn’t count the myriad others who may not identify as having a disability or who do not have one, but still experiencing trouble with voting registration and voting: the elderly; those with debilitating illnesses and conditions; those who are illiterate; and those who speak English as a second language. And on top of this, many thousand Ohioans, with or without disabilities, lack a document needed to complete online voter registration as it is proposed now.
Watch our video, Online For All: Helping People with Disabilities Register To Vote.
Ohio Has Limited Online Registration
Ohio has limited online registration, but a national ACLU report finds our site fails to meet seven of nine criteria for accessibility and ease of use, especially for those with a disability. Our online registration needs to be enhanced to allow Ohioans with disabilities equal access to a registration process that’s accessible, comprehensible, convenient—and successful.
There’s no doubt online is the way to go for so many people; it can save time, improve election accuracy and efficacy, increase participation in the electoral process, and reduce costs to Ohio boards of elections.
And just as important, it can make voting possible for those with disabilities if we make our government aware of what’s needed to improve the Ohio website.
And that does make all the sense in the world.
Fred Ross is a volunteer for the ACLU of Ohio.