Giving Compass' Take:
- Matt Vasilogambros shares hard-won court victories that protect the rights of voters with disabilities.
- What role can you play in supporting laws and lawsuits to protect the rights of people with disabilities?
- Learn more about voter suppression in the United States.
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Paralyzed from the neck down, downtown Milwaukee resident Martha Chambers has difficulty voting.
She can use a mouth stick to mark her ballot and sign her name on an absentee ballot, but she has no way of folding the ballot, slipping it back in the envelope or returning it to the mailbox.
Driven by its conservative majority, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in July outlawed assistance in the absentee voting process. After that decision, Chambers worried that her caregiver — who also gets her out of bed in the morning, brushes her teeth and puts her clothes on for her — could become a criminal for ensuring she can participate in the democratic process. Chambers said she was effectively disenfranchised.
“It was just sad,” she told Stateline. “There were a lot of voters with disabilities saying, ‘What do I do?'”
Chambers was one of four voters with disabilities who sued the Wisconsin Elections Commission in July in federal court, asking to reverse the ruling. In late August, Chief U.S. District Judge James Peterson ruled the state Supreme Court’s decision violated Chambers’ rights guaranteed under federal law.
“Voters shouldn’t have to choose between exercising their federal rights and complying with state law,” Peterson wrote in his decision.
The ruling in Wisconsin was one of two big legal victories in federal court for voters with disabilities this summer. In June, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman struck down parts of a Texas law that forbid certain assistance for voters with disabilities and voters with limited English proficiency.
The cases are part of the larger, ongoing battle over voting access. More than 20 Republican-led states enacted a wave of barriers to the ballot process in the past two years, making voting — especially by mail — more difficult in the name of preventing voter fraud, which is rare in the United States and did not affect the results of the 2020 presidential election. Voting rights advocates have challenged many of the laws. Protecting voting rights for people with disabilities is one of the few areas in which they’ve had success — and even found some consensus.
Read the full article about voters with disabilities by Matt Vasilogambros at Disability Scoop.