Pledge to Vote TN! At Disability Day on the Hill 2016
by Kelsey Loschke, DRT Advocate
On January 27, 2016, Disability Rights Tennessee joined together with Tennesseans with disabilities and disability rights agencies from across the state for Disability Day on the Hill. The day was full of energy and excitement as this diverse group convened to meet with and educate legislators about issues impacting the disability community.
Being a presidential election year, Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) wanted to connect with event attendees on the importance of the votes by people with disabilities. Voting participation by people in the disability community is of particular importance because people with disabilities vote at a lower rate than voters without disabilities. As a result, lawmakers may not always hear the needs and opinions of people with disabilities and their families. This leaves many in the disability community without a voice since voting is how people choose key policy makers.
With this in mind, DRT staff at Disability Day on the Hill provided voter registration materials for attendees who were not registered or who had out dated registration. Staff also encouraged attendees to “Pledge to Vote TN!” so that they can weigh in on important issues impacting the disability community. Many registration forms were distributed and even more people pledged to vote.
DRT also received input from self-advocates, professionals, and parents throughout the day on what issues motivated them to vote on Election Day. It was exciting to engage with our friends in the disability community about what issues were of greatest importance to them. Employment was identified as the most important issue with 21.6% of participants weighing in, followed closely by transportation (19.3%) and education (18.2%). Based on the close numbers in our poll results at Disability Day on the Hill, it’s clear there are many important issues to the disability community in Tennessee and it’s hard to choose just one stand out issue.
Throughout the 2016 election cycle, DRT’s Voting Program, Vote TN!, will continue hosting “Pledge to Vote TN!” registration events. If you would like to volunteer at an event, have an event hosted in your community, or have questions about the voting rights of individuals with disabilities, please contact DRT’s voting advocate at 800.342.1660.