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Arizona Disability Groups Working To Ensure People With Intellectual And Developmental Disabilities Can Vote

People with intellectual or developmental disabilities can face several hurdles when it comes to exercising their right to vote. One hurdle comes down to stigma.

Voting should be accessible to everyone who is eligible to vote. That includes people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Arden Day is a senior research associate at Northern Arizona University. She co-authored a study that looked at the barriers facing people with disabilities.

"We definitely heard people coming to polling places and the voting machines having not been turned on. But we did hear people say that they just didn't think that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the board had the capacity to vote we did. We did hear some of that," Day said. 

The study found more needs to be done to make sure this population can vote. Recommendations included a public awareness campaign, better transportation and ballots that are written in plain language. 

Another challenge is access.

Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day. Several disability groups are working to make sure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities register to vote. Reynaldo Fowler is with the Arizona Center for Disability Law. He says in the past, voter registration was done in person. But COVID-19 put a stop to it in most cases.

“And so to address this particular issue, the Arizona Secretary of State has set aside unique URL links to do virtual voter registration," Fowler said. 

The goal he says of this virtual registration is to increase voter turnout among people with disabilities, especially those who have an intellectual or developmental disability and may encounter discrimination.

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KJZZ senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.