It’s only a few days from election day 2020 and everyone is talking about the various voting blocks that could swing the race, but few news outlets are talking about one of the largest voter groups in the U.S. A September study confirmed that people with disabilities form an increasingly large, powerful and potentially decisive percentage of the electorate. The report by the Program for Disability Research at Rutgers University projected that 38.3 million eligible voters have a disability, including 21.3 million with a mobility disability, representing close to one-sixth of the of the total electorate.
“The sheer size of the disability electorate makes it clear that people with disabilities and their family members have the potential to swing elections,” said Lisa Schur, director of the Program for Disability Research at Rutgers University. “While their partisan split is similar to that of other citizens, people with disabilities put a higher priority on health care and employment issues, so how candidates deal with those could be decisive.”
Here are a few other key takeaways from the report:
• The number of eligible voters with disabilities has increased 19.8% since 2008, compared to an increase of 12.0% among eligible voters without disabilities.
• There will be 67.7 million eligible voters who either have a disability or have a household member with a disability, more than one-fourth of the total electorate.
• The total number of eligible voters with disabilities (38.3 million) exceeds the total number of eligible voters who are Black (29.9 million) or Hispanic/Latino (31.3 million).
Though disable Americans represent one of the largest voting blocs in the country, widespread barriers to voting access remain. A study from the non-partisan, federal Government Accountability Office found potential access impediments at 60% of the voting locations they surveyed during the 2016 election. Another study of the 2016 election found that disabled Americans voted at a 6.3% lower rate than those without disabilities.
It remains unclear how changes to voting procedures and locations due to the COVID-19 pandemic will affect disabled voter turnout. A recent story from NPR gives a helpful how-to-guide for disabled Americans to make sure you’re able to safely vote.