If you live in the United States and have a disability, chances are the voting process has never been quite right for you. This year marks my 13th opportunity to vote for President of the United States. In Oregon we have been voting by mail since 1998. At first I opposed the vote-by-mail system due to fears of manipulation and corruption. Those fears were unfounded. Voting by mail is the most accessible, easiest, least costly and least stressful method of voting I have ever experienced.
Unfortunately, only Oregon, Washington and Colorado have a vote-by-mail system for all voters, although California is considering it. Other states allow people with disabilities to vote by mail by request, but many disabled voters still experience some form of inaccessibility that either prevents or discourages them from voting. The Ruderman Foundation estimates that millions of people with disabilities are therefore unable to exercise the most fundamental right that our nation promises.
My lifelong voting record is a testament to the sanctity of our freedom to choose the candidate — and/or the political party — that each of us favors. In past presidential elections I have voted for candidates from widely diverse parties. One year — 1968 — I chose not to cast a ballot. That was the year when both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. I was 23, looking forward to casting my first presidential vote ever, for Kennedy. Instead, living under the flight path of L.A. International Airport at the time, I watched, grieving, as the jet that held his lifeless body passed overhead.
My next opportunity came in 1972. I chose to vote for the Peace and Freedom candidate, Dr. Benjamin Spock, because I wanted to see a third party emerge. I voted for a third party candidate a second time decades later. The rest of the elections I voted for either the Democrat or Republican, but I have most often registered as an Independent voter.
I have voted after waiting in line for a long time. I have voted one minute before the poll closed after a mad dash through traffic. I have complained because I needed help getting boosted up a curb to gain access to the polling place; complained because no disabled parking was available; complained about having to vote in the open, without privacy, due to inaccessible voting booths.
This year I will vote in the comfort of my home after receiving my ballot in the mail weeks ahead of election day. I will take my time, relax, maybe drink a cup of coffee while studying the voter’s pamphlet for the umpteenth time. Then I will drop off my ballot at a drive-by mailbox two or three days before election day, postage-free, or have my wife or daughter do it for me. Or I will drop it off on election day at a drive-by collection box. My vote will count the same no matter who I choose to vote for. What is important is that I have a free and easily accessible opportunity to make my personal choice.