The Live Virtual Event Featured
- Panel discussion around voting rights and responsibilities
- Panel discussion by voters with disabilities
- Date: October 17, 2022
- Location: Zoom
- ASL and CART captioning
Thank you to our panelists and attendees!
Watch the Recording
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Good morning, everyone. Well, good afternoon I suppose I should say. It's 12:05. Welcome to our mini course lecture webinar this afternoon. Today's webinar is titled, Know Your Voting Rights. We would like to let everybody know at the onset of today's session that we are recording the session so just so you're aware of that. This session will be available later on the Institute on Disabilities website.
So today, we are going to be having a panel discussion with some presentations. And I'd just like to let a bit of a layout of how the day will go. But before I do that, I really want to say good afternoon and welcome to everybody to this session, which is part of the Institute on Disabilities mini course lecture series.
Some of you may have attended some of our previous mini series. And if you enjoy today's session, you can look for us to have other mini series as the year goes on. As I said, my name is Jamie Ray-Leonetti. And I am the associate director of policy at the Institute on Disabilities.
On behalf of myself and my colleague, Kate Fialkowski, as well as our executive director, Sally Gould-Taylor, I would like to welcome you to today's mini series on Voting Rights. As you may know, the Institute on Disabilities is Pennsylvania's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.
And as part of our work, we provide these mini series on a variety of topics so that the larger community can learn about issues that may be important to the disability community as well as the larger community as a whole. Today, I'm joined by Philana Pellegrino, who is a law student at Temple School of Law, as well as my colleagues Kate Fialkowski and Susan Fullam who are assisting with some of our background and technical issues. I'd also like to thank our sign language interpreters and captioners for helping us make today's event accessible.
So now I'm going to introduce our panelists just to let a little bit about who you're going to be hearing from today. So, our first presenter will be Michelle Bishop. Michelle is from the National Disability Rights Network, NDRN. She leads a team that provides training and technical assistance to the protection and Advocacy Network around the issue of voter rights, voter engagement, and access to the vote for people with disabilities.
She also works in coalition with the Civil Rights community in Washington, DC to ensure strong federal policy regarding voting and election administration. She also has a Twitter handle. You can follow her voting and other adventures on Twitter-- Twitter, excuse me, using the handle @MichelleVotes.
Our next panelist will be Rochelle Kaplan. Rochelle is the director of voter services for the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. In that role, she convenes bimonthly meeting of chairs of voter services from leagues throughout the state of Pennsylvania. The work of the voter services includes holding voter education forums, webinars, community events, publishing voter guides, hosting candidate forums, and providing feedback to local election offices on questions that they may receive around voting. Rochelle is an alumnus of Temple University School of Law. And prior to retirement, served as an arbitrator and mediator in labor and employment disputes.
Our third panelist is Lauren Alden. Lauren has been working in the Philadelphia Disability Community for 12 years spending the majority of that time at Liberty Resources, which is the Center for Independent Living in Philadelphia. She is passionate about disability rights and justice and as-- and she is a member of Adapt and on the board of Disabled in Action. She is the mother of two children and enjoys gardening and learning about growing her own food.
Then we have two more panelists. The first being Jule Ann Lieberman. Jule Ann is also a colleague of mine here at the Institute on Disabilities. She works for our tech AI team as a blind and low vision specialist. And Jule Ann is going to share with us today some of her experience as a voter with lived experience as a person who is blind.
And then we have Shawntel Ward. We're very pleased to have Shawntel join us today. Shawntel is a member of the Philadelphia Mayor's Commission on People with Disabilities. And she also identifies as being part of the deaf community. And she will be sharing some of her voting experience with us today.
At the end of each presenter, we will have time for questions. So we will encourage you to use the Q&A function or if you happen to be dialed in to this presentation today without computer, you can hit star 9, which will cause your hand to raise and let us know that you need to be taken off mute so that you can ask your question. So there will be a question period at the end of each speaker as well as a little bit of time for questions at the end.
So with that, I am going to turn it over to our first presenter Michelle Bishop from National Disability Rights Network. And Michelle is going to give us sort of a big picture federal overview on voting rights. Thank you, Michelle.
MICHELLE BISHOP: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me everyone. I'm excited to be here today. It's almost go time for the election. So exciting. I hope you guys are all as hyped up to vote as I am.
I have a few slides, I'm going to share with you just to take us through some of the ins and outs of the national picture when it comes to the importance of our vote and voting accessibility for people with disabilities. And I do not see them. That's OK. I can-- they're there.
Great. So as you heard, I'm Michelle Bishop. And I am the voter access and engagement manager at an organization called the National Disability Rights Network. So I will tell you a little bit more about who we are and how you all got stuck with me giving you your national overview today. Let's jump to the next slide.
And before we get into all of that, I just wanted to take a moment to pause and talk about why our vote is so important. If we go to the next slide. Awesome. Thank you.
So before we get into all the things we're going to talk about tonight, I wanted to-- well first, share with you just like my favorite image ever of a woman with a cake standing here looking really powerful in front of the United States Capitol. It says voting is my superpower.
That is 100% how I look in my mind. You can probably tell from Zoom, I don't look anything like that woman but I promise you I do in my head. And I believe voting is my superpower too. And Thank you for whoever gave a thumbs up to that. I appreciate you.
So sorry, we'll get to the important stuff. There are about 40 million eligible disabled voters in the United States. That is a huge number. If you think about the fact that we are anywhere from 20% to 25% of the general population based on the data we have from the census and the CDC, we are a huge community. And 40 million eligible voters is a huge number of people.
That is more than the difference in turnout for any presidential candidate we've ever had. It's potentially incredibly powerful. Unfortunately, disability voter turnout lags behind our non-disabled peers at a rate of about 6% pretty consistently, anywhere from 5% to 6%. Now, I know that doesn't sounds like a huge amount of people.
I didn't say 50%. I didn't say 75%. I only said 6%, less than 10%. And that doesn't sounds like a lot. But when we're talking about 40 million eligible voters, that 6% can be around 3 million or so lost votes from people with disabilities in any given election. And 3, 4, 5 million votes is a very significant number of votes. First of all, those people whose voices aren't being heard, but that is actually enough to determine the outcome of pretty much any election we've ever had-- not pretty much of any election we've had in the United States.
People with disabilities, our vote is so critical because our voices deserve to be heard. And because if we all get out there and we all vote, we could be so powerful. We could make the people who make important decisions about our lives every day listen to what it is that we have to say. So I hope that moves you the way that it moves me and that you keep that in the back of your mind as we talk about all the good stuff we're going to talk about today. Let's jump to the next slide.
And I had one more quick thing I wanted to mention before we go through all of this. When I talk about how many people with disabilities aren't voting because of some of the barriers that we face, it's-- we want to change that one, because it is the right thing to do. We should make-- our democracy is based on the idea that everybody gets to vote and everybody has their voice heard and they have their say.
And any time the system is set up to stop several million people from being able to cast their ballots, that's not the basis of our government. It's the right thing to do. But I also want to mention that it's also the law. Our right to vote is protected by multiple federal laws that say that we have to have the same access as anyone else to be able to get registered to vote and to cast our votes.
So when we talk about some of the rights and options that you have today, know that they are very much a matter of law and they are protected. And should feel confident going to advocate for your right to vote when you head to the polls in November. Let's jump to the next slide.
And as promised, I'll give you a quick overview of who we are, how you got stuck with me today. I work for an organization called NDRN or the National Disability Rights Network. We are a nonprofit membership association for what's known as the protection and advocacy systems for people with disabilities. It is a nationwide network.
Actually, let's jump to the next slide. And I'll tell you a little bit more about that. I'm coming to you live today from Washington, DC, but the PNAs, our network, are actually all over. Well, let's go to the next slide.
And so the PNA network, a little more about us. We were created by Congress to protect the rights of people with disabilities through mostly legal support, advocacy, referral, education. We're essentially the largest provider of legal advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States. And because we were created by Congress that means we exist in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, all of the US territories, including Puerto Rico, and there is also 57 of us-- 57 is in the Southwest, and specifically represents Native Americans with disabilities.
Let's go to the next slide. And I'll tell you why all of that matters. One of the programs that we have at the PNA is-- wherever they are, is called PAVA, Protection and Advocacy for Voter Access. It is a federal mandate to our network created by the Help America Vote Act that says that we have to work to ensure the full participation in the electoral process for individuals with disabilities, including registering to vote, casting a vote and accessing polling places.
Let's jump to the next slide. And I can tell you a little bit more about what that looks like where you all are. So PAVA programs at the PNAs typically mean enforcing some of those voting rights laws, making sure that your rights aren't being denied when you try to participate in the process, educating our lawmakers and the general public on what changes to voting rights laws could mean for people with disabilities. Will it make it easier or harder for people with disabilities to vote?
Getting people with disabilities registered to vote, educating people with disabilities about our rights when we go to vote and knowing what your options are, and working with our elections administrators to make sure that elections are as accessible as possible to people with disabilities are all the types of things we're working on in any state or territory. But I had to give them a shout out and include the logo for Disability Rights Pennsylvania, who I'm sure a lot of know, Disability Rights Pennsylvania is the PNA in Pennsylvania that's part of our network that's doing all of this amazing work.
So that's a little quick background on who we are and how you got me. And of course, a quick plug that if you don't disability rights Pennsylvania, you should. Reach out to them right away. All right. Let's go to the next slide.
In terms of the National perspective, I wanted to talk about some important barriers to watch out for in 2022. There are a number of barriers that we see all the time, that we're always concerned about and some of them are listed here. One of them at the bottom there you see inaccessible polling places. This is a huge problem nationwide.
We weren't really able to do-- or I will say the federal government wasn't necessarily able to survey polling places in 2020 because of COVID. So many of them were closed or they weren't letting extra folks in there do surveys. The last time we had a national survey by the Federal government of polling places was in 2016, and they found that only 40% of polling places, that's 4, 0, less than half of polling places actually comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
So less than half of polling places could actually be considered accessible. They had inaccessible parking lots, paths of travel that weren't safe for walkers and wheelchairs, dangerous ramps, heavy doors that weren't propped open. A polling place that's in a basement down a set of stairs and there's no ramp or elevator to get you down there. Over half of America's polling places are inaccessible.
And that's like the best. That's an all time high. It used to be even significantly worse. But also when you consider the voting stations themselves where you actually go to mark your ballot and cast your ballot, when you have that in the mix, it's actually less than 40% that are fully accessible. Because a lot of those voting stations aren't set up for wheelchair access.
They don't have those headphones out if you need to use an audio ballot. And when we take all of that data together, less than 20% of polling places could actually be considered fully accessible to people with disabilities. So this is an ongoing problem. But you're thinking that sounds solvable? I agree. It probably should have been solved by now, but it's something we're still advocating around.
The other is the inaccessibility of voting by mail. And that's become really popular. Ever since COVID, people want to get a ballot mailed to them and either bring it to a drop box or drop it in the mail or drop it off at their polling place [INAUDIBLE] kind of minimizing the amount of interaction they have with other folks, especially at a crowded polling place during a pandemic. Completely understandable.
But vote by mail traditionally is exactly what it sounds like. It's mailing someone a piece of paper and expecting them to be able to hold that paper, read it, and mark it with a pen, fold it up, put it in the envelope and return it yourself. And if that's something you're not able to do at your polling place, you don't magically gain the ability to do that when you go home.
Somebody who's blind, if they can't read and mark that ballot by hand in a polling place, they can't do it at their kitchen table either. We've seen some really big improvements in the accessibility of voting by mail. A lot of states now will send you that ballot electronically, let you market electronically.
A few of them even will let you return your completed ballot electronically, which is pretty darn accessible for a lot of folks. But in many states, even if you receive electronically, you still have to print it and mail it back or take it somewhere to drop which once you bring that paper back in, it makes it inaccessible once again. So we've seen improvements in the accessibility of vote by mail for sure since 2020, but it's still a key issue that we're working on.
A few things I wanted to touch on that are a little more specific to this moment in time, things that we've seen happening since 2016 and 2020 that really give us pause. One is challenges to voters coming from the poll workers or sometimes those poll watchers that you may have in your polling places. The rules around poll watchers vary from state to state, whether or not they can be there and what the qualifications are, but most states allow some form of poll watching.
So we have seen an increase in calls for poll watchers to be in polling places and for them to be more aggressive than they've been in the past in terms of stopping voters who they think should not be eligible to vote. And this isn't usually done specifically to stop people with disabilities from voting. But people with disabilities can often get caught up in this. If you have really anxious poll workers or really aggressive poll watchers and they see people with disabilities coming in to vote, they do sometimes question whether or not they're competent or should be eligible.
The thing is if they're registered and they show up on the rolls, they have the right to mark and cast a ballot that day. And they shouldn't be getting stopped by their poll workers when they're trying to check in to vote. So we've heard anecdotally, that this is happening a little more and that gives us a lot of concern. And we really want voters to be educated on what their rights are and to know they should not leave that polling place without casting a ballot. Even if they end up having to mark a provisional ballot, they should at least do that and then advocate after they leave the polling place to make sure that provisional ballot gets counted if they were eligible and they're on the voter rolls.
We're also really concerned about limitations on voter assistance. This has been a really big issue since 2020. It is your right under federal law to have the assistant of your choice to assist you whether or not you're going to vote in person or you're voting by mail. The only limitations on that it can't be your boss, your employer, or it can't be your Union representative from your employer. That's it. It can't be your boss, can't be your Union rep.
Other than that, you have the right to have anyone you want assist you when you go to vote. That person doesn't have to also be voting that doesn't have to be their polling place. They don't have to be over 18. They don't have to be a citizen. They don't have to be fluent in English. They don't have to be any of those things.
It can be whoever you trust to help you mark your ballot. We've seen states try to pass laws to limit this. Sometimes they say certain people can't assist you, maybe only friends or family can assist you, someone who works in a group home that you live in can't assist you or something like that. Well, you have the right to the assistance of your choice.
And the states don't get to limit that, so they don't get to say other than your employer or your Union rep that certain people can't assist you. They also can't really say that someone can only assist three voters in a given election. Because well, let's say there's a group home and there's staff in that group home. And everyone who lives there, they know the same staff. They want to ask the same people to assist them.
If you limit how many people those staff can assist, you're essentially saying that some voters aren't going to get the assistant of their choice if the assistant of their choice already assisted too many voters. We see these kinds of laws. States that try to pass these laws they do get sued. And it gets reversed. But we want to make sure that voters know their rights and that they feel comfortable asking someone they trust to assist them to vote.
The last and this kind of touches on the same issue I was just talking about is access for voters who live in long term care facilities. People who live in nursing homes and residential facilities, being able to vote has been a big problem well, always. But definitely since 2020 because of the pandemic, a lot of people who live in long term care facilities, they rely on either friends or family coming into a system to vote or they rely on elections officials themselves sending staff in to make sure everyone in the facility gets to vote or occasionally the setup I like most, those facilities serve as an actual polling place.
So a real functioning polling place is in your community room or your lobby and just have to get downstairs to be able to cast your vote. But we weren't able to do any of that during the pandemic when nursing homes and other facilities had to close their doors and stop letting those folks in to try to stop the spread and protect residents. And so a lot of people who live in long term care facilities were concerned were not able to cast their ballots. And that's been an ongoing concern since-- especially since we see these attempts to limit who can assist a voter because a lot of people who live in long term care facilities are getting a vote by mail ballot and they're relying on someone to assist them to market and to return it for them. And that's a right that they have.
So we just wanted to flag all of these issues for you all to watch if you are a voter, know what your rights are. If you're someone who's out there talking to voters and getting them registered, make sure that they know this information and that they feel comfortable for advocating for what they need. And actually speaking of that, let's jump to the next slide.
This one's a little more positive. This a little bit more about options for voters in 2022 and now that we've talked about some of the barriers. And some of this is going to vary in Pennsylvania. So fortunately, all the speakers who are coming after me are Pennsylvania specific so they'll know if these options are available to your voters.
If we talk about anything today that's not available to your voters right now, still we're thinking about, we should advocate for this to be implemented or brought back in our state because it really benefits voters. So options for voters we're seeing in 2022 that I really like and want to see use more broadly. The first is early voting periods.
I-- we found generally that it can be really difficult for some voters with disabilities if they are trying to line up transportation that works for them or they need someone to assist them when they go to the polls. If every person with a disability has to figure all that out and get to the polls within a set number of hours on one particular day, it really taxes some of those resources. Having a period of two to three weeks means that those who are going to be asked to assist or transportation options don't become overwhelmed. It also means that if you make a plan to vote and think you've got your plan set and something falls through and you've planned early enough, there could be two to three weeks of voting left for you to make a new plan and make sure you still get a chance to vote.
I also really like drop boxes. Drop boxes were not particularly common before 2020. But because of COVID when we're all trying to social distance, all of a sudden, I want to say 40 states were offering drop boxes. That's a record number for sure where you can just get your vote by mail ballot and go and drop it off in the box that might be at a polling place or in a voting center. It could be at libraries or places of public accommodation.
We saw a lot of these. I actually voted by Dropbox in 2020 and I loved it. Because even during early voting where I live in Northern Virginia, the lines were several hours long. I can't-- actually, I have a disability myself and I can't stand in line for four hours at a time. So using the dropbox had me in and out in 10 minutes.
We still have some concerns about drop boxes because we saw some that were not accessible or weren't on accessible paths of travel. So we're still advocating around that. But we want to see these in use.
We also really-- I used to not love curbside voting. I often felt like curbside voting was being used instead of making polling places fully accessible. But then all of a sudden COVID happened, and I thought, what a great idea for people who are immunocompromised or really high risk for COVID, they can stay in their vehicle and interact with two poll workers wearing PPE and not have to go into a crowded polling place. This was also a really smart move in 2020 because inevitably people were going to test positive for COVID 19 when it was too late to request a vote by mail ballot. And their only choice was going to be to go to a crowded polling place.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather those people stay in their cars and interact with just a couple of poll workers wearing protective equipment and not go into a crowded polling place and potentially infect other people. So now all of a sudden I'm a big fan of curbside voting. And I think it makes a lot of sense. Even if your polling places are fully accessible, there are always going to be people with disabilities and older adults for whom just getting in and out of the car, standing for any length of time or walking any amount of distance is going to be difficult. It's going to be a barrier. Having curbside or drive-thru voting is a great option for those folks, even if your polling places are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
You also do have the federal right to move-- ask to move up in line that comes from a bill we don't talk about very much called the voting accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act. Sorry, it has handicapped in it. It's an old Bill from the 1980s. And that's the term they were using at the time.
But it says you have the right to request to move to the front of the line if you can't because of your disability, wait in a long line. Now it doesn't say if they have to move you to the front but I will say they very often will. And if they don't, they have to be able to accommodate you in some other way if that means bringing you a chair or whatever that may be. So it's an accommodation you shouldn't-- or shouldn't hesitate to ask for.
We talked about also your federal right to voter assistance. You have the right to the assistant of your choice with those two limited exceptions of your boss or your Union rep. So if you especially for first time voters who just might be nervous about this whole process, want an assistant to come with you, you absolutely have that right. You should use it. If you don't have someone to bring with you, you can always go vote in person and the poll workers are required to assist you as well.
That's an accommodation. They should be sending teams of two, one Republican and one Democrat, to make sure nobody's doing anything tricky when they're helping you with your ballot. But don't hesitate to ask for that as well.
I did mention, of course, options for voters. We are seeing big improvements to vote by mail the last couple of years. So it's worth knowing what your options are there. Can people with disabilities receive that ballot electronically, mark it electronically, what are your options for returning that electronic ballot, knowing whether or not the rules have changed around deadlines for voting by mail. As much as we saw improvements in the last couple of years, we've also seen some states now try to restrict this a little bit and make some of those deadlines a little more burdensome.
So you want to know what the rules are where you are. They've changed a lot back and forth in the past couple of years. And then one of the things we're really stressing for voters since 2020-- well, we always talk about making a plan to vote, because I think it makes a lot of sense for people with disabilities. We just face some additional barriers that nondisabled folks don't have to deal with.
So thinking in advance about where is my polling place, is it going to be accessible to me, what are my options when I get there, can I vote curbside, can I move to the front of the line, what accessible equipment will be there for me, do I need to take an assistant with me, and who is that going to be, how am I going to get there, how might get it back? And my favorite part is always of a voting plan, how am I going to celebrate having voted after I voted? My personal-- well, I have two things I do to celebrate after I vote because I'm a nerd and I really love voting. The first is I always have to get my I voted sticker and take a selfie with it and post it online, because I need everyone to know that I voted and that they better do the same. And the other is pizza just because pizza is delicious.
So those are my recommendations for you. So I love the people who are applauding. Pizza is good. But I do think voting and participating our democracy is important and it's amazing. And when you do something that cool and that important, you should absolutely take a moment to celebrate after the fact that you did your part for democracy.
But one of the things that we're really stressing when you make a vote-- voting plan this year is to really think all those things through and to really think about what's going to be accessible to you in advance and make sure you know what the rules are just in case they've changed where you are. Maybe you really like the idea of drop boxes. They were added in 2020 and they're still going to be there. Maybe you used one in 2020 and now they've been eliminated.
You just want to know what the rules are going to be and really have thought that through in advance because it's changing in a lot of places. There's a lot of new legislation being introduced and lawsuits going around challenging some of that legislation. So you really want to keep track of what the rules are going to be where you are.
Oh, I see there's a resource in the chat. I love it Thank you. Let's go to the next slide. And then I promise, I'm almost done talking at you guys. We're almost there.
I wanted to pause quickly and talk about guardianship in voting. The laws are different in every state. I-- from a quick scan that I did as a refresher, I believe you can vote under guardianship in Pennsylvania. That's something you absolutely want to check on.
And I provided some resources here. The It's Your Right, Know Your Rights Guide for voters with mental disabilities and advocates was created by my organization NDRN as well as the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. It includes a chart that shows you what the laws look like by state and also some resources to help you advocate if for any reason you've lost your right to vote and need to get that back. And another document created by NDRN, voting accommodations for people with mental disabilities to make sure kind of what your rights and your options are if you're a person with a developmental or intellectual disability and if you have a guardian.
Let's jump to the next slide. So some additional resources I wanted to throw out there for voters. The first, I-- is just, I want to stress, contacting your elections officials directly. If you're not sure what the rules are going to be, what your options are going to be, what you'll need when you go to vote, I really suggest calling your elections officials and finding out from the source just because the rules have changed a lot in the last couple of years. And they change frequently.
So some third party sources may or may not have the most up to date information. If there is an accommodation or an option that's really important to you, I think you want to double check with your elections officials and make sure that that's still going to be in place. We talked a little bit about poll watchers, challenging eligibility of voters. So I wanted to include a fact sheet about the concerns we've had for challenging voters at the polls based on disability or if they have limited proficiency in English.
And then also a really cool resource to help you know the difference between what poll watching is and what voter intimidation is. What can poll watchers do and what can't they do when you go to vote. And the last one of my favorite resources-- I'm so glad we have another panelist from League of Women Voters, because people probably think I work for the League of Women Voters because I talk about this website so much.
VOTE411.org. I love it. You can check your registration, your polling place, you can look up your ballot. I literally use this myself. You can look up what's going to be on your ballot. And it will give you some really awesome plain language explanations of some of the most confusing stuff on your ballot.
If you're like me and you know who you want to vote for and then you get to the end and there's like proposition A and proposition B, and they're written in legalese, and they're really hard to understand and I have to vote yes or no and I'm not sure what I'm looking at, vote411 often has plain language breakdowns of what those propositions are to help you understand. And I use it to learn about my own ballot before I go vote as well. Let's jump to the next slide.
And I just wanted you guys to have some hotlines to call as well. Even if you do your best prep and things go a little bit awry on election day, there are some numbers you can call. You see here, the election protection voter hotlines. Those are national they're staffed live. If you speak English you, can call 866-OUR-VOTE.
But there's also 888- [SPANISH]. This is in English and Spanish. 888-API-VOTE which is in English and several Asian languages. It's about nine different languages, so I didn't want to try to list them all and get any of them wrong because I think it changes a little bit from year to year. And 844- [ARABIC], which is English and Arabic. And then let's jump to the next slide.
And there are some additional options if calling on the phone just doesn't work for you for any reason. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, if that gives you anxiety, if you have any type of speech impairment, you can also text the election protection number, 866-687-8683 and they'll respond to you by text. You can go to 866-OUR-VOTE, which is the Election Protection Website and there's an online chat feature. And I love this. National Association of the Deaf has a video hotline for speakers of ASL, 301-818-VOTE.
Let's jump to the next slide and then I'm almost done. I'll stop talking at y'all. And then I just wanted to, of course, make a quick pitch for you all to find us, disabilityrightspa.org for the PNA in your state.
I'm at NDRN.org if you want some more information about us. And we actually have a new website that we launched in 2020 called voterswithdisabilites.org and you see a little screenshot of it there. And I have arrows pointing to a couple of really important links. One is find the PNA in your state. And the other at the bottom right corner, it says resources.
And if you click there, we have all kinds of fact sheets and toolkits and resources that we've created for voters that are there for you to take and use. And also, please feel free to contact us if you're thinking man, I went to voters with disabilities.org. And I really thought I'd find this resource. They should put that up there.
This is a new website for us. And we're really looking to add to it and make it something really robust for voters. So we'd love your input as well. But just a few different ways that you can find us and talk to us.
And with that, that's everything that I have for you all this morning. And I will graciously pass the mic to my co-panelists who are going to know more about what's going on in your state than I probably ever will. But thank you so much.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Thank you so much Michelle for being with us today. I just want to take a pause and see if there are any questions or comments for you. I do see you're getting a lot of love and hand-clapping emojis on the screen here.
MICHELLE BISHOP: I did mention pizza, so. So I expected the love.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Hi Jamie, it's Philana. I just wanted to flag that there are two questions in the question and answer portion. And it says that you would like to answer them. Can I read them out?
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Sure, go ahead.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: So one is, how do we get a copy of the PowerPoint with these links that were provided?
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: So that is an excellent question. I believe we will be making the PowerPoint available after this webinar to registrants as long as that's OK with Michelle.
MICHELLE BISHOP: Yes, absolutely. We put so many links in there with resources for you guys to get to. That'd be great.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Thanks.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Awesome. And then there's also a follow up from Sandra who asked the first question. And they would like to know, will NDRN have an election day hotline?
MICHELLE BISHOP: So in the end doesn't actually have our own election day hotline for one very specific reason. We are part of the election protection coalition. So we work with them on election day. So we will actually be-- NDRN staff will be doing two things. We'll be watching the calls that come into election protection and making sure that calls that are specific to disability are being resolved appropriately and assist if help is needed.
There's a lot of volunteers, lawyers, and law students that take those calls. And they really know their stuff. And they have some great resources in front of them. So they're good at resolving calls from people with disabilities. But some are just tricky and get into aspects of disability law that we don't expect those folks to know.
So we're there to help them with those. We also monitor social media and pay attention to disability Twitter to see what's going on and see if there are any national trends and things that we need to address as well. So we don't have a direct hotline, but you can definitely, if you have something in Pennsylvania, called Disability Rights Pennsylvania for sure. And they'll assist you. Otherwise, if you have a call that goes into election protection and gets bumped up, yours truly will probably be assisting with those.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Thank you for that.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Thank you. There is another question from a different Sandra, Sandra Kay. And they would like to know if a polling place is not accessible or ADA compliant, who can you contact to correct it?
MICHELLE BISHOP: That's a great question. And have some options. There are two things that you can do through the state or through the federal government. One, there is a complaints process through your state. It's required under the Help America Vote Act, so every state has one.
They're all set up a little differently and they can be hard to find so you can always call your state election director's office to do that as well. You can file a complaint directly with the US Department of Justice, since they enforce the ADA. If any of that just sounds confusing or intimidating or are they even going to notice my complaint, I totally understand.
So you can always contact Disability Rights Pennsylvania. They can help you to do either of those kinds of complaints or they can help directly advocate with the elections officials for that County to get that polling place made more accessible or maybe potentially just relocated to a more accessible location in the immediate vicinity. So don't hesitate to reach out to Disability Rights Pennsylvania also.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Thank you. And that's all the questions that we have right now in the Question and Answer chat. But please feel free if there's anything that comes up to add more questions.
MICHELLE BISHOP: Please do. I'll be here listening to the rest of the panelists so happy to answer any questions later on as well.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Thank you very much again Michelle. We appreciate you. And at this point, I'm going to turn it over to Rochelle Kaplan from the League of Women Voters for a bit of a Pennsylvania perspective.
ROCHELLE KAPLAN: Hi, everyone. Welcome. After Michelle's presentation, her energy level is just incredible. So I'm going to-- I'm going to hope that I can keep up that energy level.
As I was introduced by Jamie, I am the Voter Services Director of the League of Women Voters. And you can put up the first screen if you would like to with our little logo on it. That would be great. The League of Women Voters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan-- and we stress nonpartisan because we-- our mission is defending democracy and empowering voters. We don't care how anybody votes.
We just want to make sure that you understand how to vote, your rights to vote, who's on your ballot, and any other civics good government types of information. While we take positions on issues impacting voters, in particular, some of the things that Michelle spoke about accessibility, making sure that individuals who are fully qualified to register to vote are able to vote, making sure that voting is accessible, we take positions on those things. But we don't support any political party or any candidate.
The League of Women Voters, we do our work through 33 local leagues throughout the state. We do this through volunteers that are on the ground providing the voter education seminars, webinars, forums that Jamie mentioned in my introduction. Why do we do this?
Because we think that if we empower voters, they will be confident and get out to vote, which is our ultimate goal, to get as many folks out to vote as we can. Because it is the foundation of our democracy, which brings me to the next screen that I'm just going to echo what Michelle said, voting is essential. As Abraham Lincoln said, it's not the qualified voters but the qualified voters who choose to vote that have the political power.
So you may be registered. But if you don't get out to vote, you're not telling your representatives what you stand for, what you want. As Michelle said, it is the foundation of our democracy. Our founding documents talk about the government of, by, and for the people. So that means it's us, that we have to let our politicians know how we stand by voting.
It holds them accountable. It is our way to make change. Yes, we can advocate. Yes, we can do rallies. Yes, we can write letters to the editor. But voting is our way to say I want this changed or I like what's going on.
My final-- the final bullet point on this, we have personal experience in the league that every vote matters. I come from Lehigh County, which is a little bit North of Philadelphia. In 2021, a judicial race was decided by five votes, five votes folks. That means your vote matters.
In 2020, a state representative election, that's a member of our state house, was decided in the primary by 55 votes. That is a small number. That means every one of our votes matters. Don't let anybody tell you any different.
If we could go to the next slide, please. So when do Pennsylvanians vote? We are going to focus on the 2022 general election in November. But as a league of Women Voters board member, I would be remiss if I didn't tell everybody that's on this call and want you to tell everybody else that you know that Pennsylvanians vote every year, twice a year. Let me say that again. Every year, twice a year.
There are no off year elections. There are even an off year elections, but every single election is important. And by the way, in 2023, we have our municipal elections. And Michelle talked about now election offices.
In the state of Pennsylvania, each County, there are 67 counties, run their own elections. They have to follow state law. But in the nitty gritty of how they operate, where the drop boxes are located, the polling place accessibility, it's those County election offices. Well, next year, County commissioners will be elected. So if you're concerned about the accessibility of the elections that are run in your County, it's your chance to vote for folks that want to make elections accessible to everyone.
If you stay home, then you can't-- you can still complain, but you would have had an opportunity to voice your concerns. So that's just a plug for 2023. Also in Pennsylvania, we have not only primary general but sometimes special elections, because an individual has died retired, resigned, or there's a vacancy for some reason. And it doesn't-- the vacancy occurs in a time where the primary wouldn't-- it's too far away or the primary just happened and the vacancy occurred. They want to fill the seat before the general, there's time left on a term.
So you may have an opportunity to vote other than the primary and in general. So let's talk about this election coming up. This election coming up-- let's go to the next slide, it is November 8 if you are voting in person. It's November 8 if you do a mail-in ballot because your mail in ballot has to be at the voter office by 8:00 November 8. So whatever day, whatever way you're going to vote, November 8 is the deadline.
In our general elections, you can vote for anyone. Doesn't matter how you are registered. You can vote for the major parties or the third parties, unaffiliated, or write your own name in.
Now this is an important point. In 2019, the legislature passed Act 77, which gave us a no excuse mail in balloting, but they also took away a straight ticket ability to vote. If you remember, you could just check off, I want all the Democratic candidates or I want all the Republican candidates. They took that away.
And from a league of Women Voters standpoint, we love it. Why do we love it? Because it makes voters look at each candidate separately. So whether you're in person or you get your mail in ballot, you are going to have to think about each candidate. You're not going to be able to just check off-- and I'm going to show my age, because I almost said, flip a lever.
Because when I started voting at the age of 21, because that was the age back then, I went into these voting machines where I had to flip a lever. But in any event, you can't do that anymore. You have to vote for each candidate separately. So we want you to think about each candidate separately. You want to go to the next slide?
So in Pennsylvania, there are three simple qualifications to vote. 18 years of age, on or before election day, you have to be a citizen, and have to be a resident of the state and you're voting district at least 30 days before the election. So if you move, you're still a Pennsylvania resident but you moved to a different voting district, a different County, you need to update your voter registration before October 24, which is the voter registration deadline.
But other than that, if everything is the same, you don't have to check your voter registration. If you're not registered to vote, and we'll give you the URL, you have until October 24th. Let's move to the next slide.
Registering to vote is very easy as I said, and I'm going to be repeating myself even at the end of this presentation, October 24th is the deadline to register. There are four ways you can register, online, by mail, you can go to your County registration office, plus there are other state agencies where you can go which may be more convenient for you than going down to your voter registration office. Now, that URLs, the hyperlinks here, when you get my PowerPoint, will take you directly to online or a way to download voter registration that you can fill out at home and mail it in. If we could go to the next slide.
If you want to check your voter registration status because you're not sure, you can either go to your County election office and that's a URL for you to find your County election office website or the Department of State can do it for you. That URL there takes you directly to where are you putting your information to check your voter registration status. Let's go to the next slide.
So in Pennsylvania, we vote by mail or we vote in person. Act 77 gave us the no excuse mail-in ballot. There's absentee that's been around for many years where you're either out of the district, ill, injured, or permanently disabled. The date to apply for a mail-in ballot is November 1. It's a seven day deadline before the election.
But in practicality, because we know how the mail has slowed up, if you want to vote by mail, either no excuse or absentee, apply today. Do not wait till November 1 because you may not get it in time to complete it and get it back by November 8.
And that November 8 deadline is not a postmark. It must be physically in voter registration by November 8. So once again, I gave you two URLs where you can go on to get this application besides going to your County voter registration office.
One of the things about the application I want to mention to you. If you decide you really love voting by mail, on the application, there is a block that says annual mail-in ballot list. You will be put on a list where once a year, you will be automatically sent a mail-in ballot application that you can fill. You will get your ballot in the primary and the general for that year.
And then the following year, you will be sent another, do you want to apply for mail-in ballot. And if you want to for that next year, you just need to apply. So you just fill out this I want to apply annually. That way, you don't have to do it twice a year, every year because you're going to be voting twice a year, every year.
Some people ask about well, I've received all these applications to vote by mail. Is that my ballot? Do I have to fill it out? A lot of third party organizations-- because voting by mail have become very popular regardless of what you might hear otherwise, are sending out applications to vote by mail because their organization wants their members to know that they can apply. If you've already applied through the Department of State, through your County election office, just tear those up and throw them away.
If you think they maybe bogus in some way, tear them up and throw it away. They are not ballots don't think that if you filled it out somehow, you got a ballot. It's an application. If you think it's legit by going online and comparing it to the applications that are online, you can fill it out but get it to your County voter registration office. Don't send it back to the organization.
Again, my recommendation is unless it's a trusted organization that you know, like Pennsylvania Disability Rights organization, I would rip it up and apply through the Department of State, both PA or your County election office just to be absolutely sure. We can go to the next slide.
So now, you've applied and got your mail-in ballot in the mail at home. And a little bit, I'm going to talk about some accessibility choices you can make that Michelle referenced that are available to you. But-- so I just want to talk about making sure that when you complete it either through the accessible remote marking ability or by the mail-in ballot that you use paper and pencil, that you do it so your vote is counted so there is no dispute over your vote.
Read all the instructions three times before you make a mark on it. That's Rochelle Kaplan's advice. I know when I'm reading instructions, I miss things the first two times. The third time, it finally clicks in.
Fill in your choices front and back. Turn it over. Even if you don't think there's anything on the back, turn it over to be sure. There could be some local referendum on the back of the ballot.
After you make your choices, make sure that you've checked it off and very, very clearly, you put the ballot in a secrecy envelope. If you don't put the ballot in the secrecy envelope, it won't be counted. So the secrecy envelope-- I don't know whether you're going to be able to see this, in my County Lehigh County, made the secrecy envelope a different color than the official mail back-- the mailer envelope. So you really can't miss it.
For the primary, it was white. And people just thought it was an additional envelope. And they didn't use it.
It also says official election envelope. Please don't forget to put it in there. Seal it up. Don't put any marking on it.
Then you're going to put this that has your ballot, the secrecy envelope, it's going to have your ballot. You're going to put the secrecy envelope into the mailer. At the back of the mailer, there is a place-- and I just want to get this out-- I don't know whether you can see it.
But this is what the mailer-- this is what you're going to put the secrecy envelope in. In the back of it, you are going to see a place for your signature and a date. Please, please, please, sign it and date it. If you want to make sure that you have your vote properly counted, sign it and dated.
There's been a lot in the news lately about the Governor Wolf and the Department of State saying they want counties to count undated ballots. There is a Supreme Court that vacated the Third Circuit decision that said you could count undated ballots. So because there's a difference in what the governor is saying and his basis for saying it, I'm not saying it's invalid, and what people were counting voter registration offices who may not want to count those undated ballots-- and they may have a valid reason not to want to count them-- please don't forget to date them. Please don't forget to take them.
Now, Michelle mentioned returning ballots. So in Pennsylvania, because we have 67 different counties that do 67-- again, administrations of elections, you may have drop boxes or you may not. Your County voter registration office should-- will have a list of the drop boxes, their addresses, and the hours of operation.
You can also mail it. If you want to mail it put it in the mail ASAP. Or you can go in person. So in Pennsylvania, we don't have something officially called early voting. We do not have that in Pennsylvania.
But what you can do once the ballot is finalized and in all 67 counties, it appears at the ballot is finalized and it has gone out to voters, you can go into your County voter registration office, apply for a mail-in ballot, right there. They will check it out and take five minutes. They will give you a ballot.
You can be there and fill in the mail-in-- the ballot right there. That is our form of early voting. So we do not have satellite offices where you can go and vote in person early. I just wanted to make that very clear. Let's move to voting to the polls. You can jump to the next screen.
So November 8, 7:00 in the morning till 8:00 at night, I'm a poll worker. I'm very proud of what we do. I think we're democracy's essential workers. And the poll workers are there to assist every single voter who wants to vote-- who was there to vote.
Whatever we need to do to help you through. Now, the only caveat I will say to Michelle, is if you need help voting and come in to check in, if you've already indicated that you needed help voting, it will be in our poll booths. If this is the first time that you're voting at that precinct, you will have to complete a declaration of voter assistance and you go to the judge of elections. They give you a very simple form that you sign or you get your person assisting you to sign, and then you can have that person assist you.
And she is absolutely correct. Anybody can help you. Except in the state of Pennsylvania, the judge of elections along with your employer or your Union rep cannot help you complete the ballot. Will they help you get set up. If you're using the accessibility-- I think it's called the ADA express vote accessibility machine? Absolutely.
Will they show you how to turn it on, put on the headset, and manipulate the various prompts? Absolutely. What they won't do is help you complete your ballot as somebody who is a friend or relative or neighbor would be able to do. So I just wanted to clear that up.
There's a lot of questions about our voting machines in Pennsylvania. Number one, none of it is connected to the internet. Not the ADA express machine and not the scanning machines where you scan your ballot. Whether you're voting by the ADA express machine or you're filling out a paper ballot and scanning it in the scanner, it is safe and secure.
Your ballot is-- after it's scanned, whether it's from the express machine or handwritten by you, once you scan it, it drops to the bottom. It is housed in a container. Nobody touches it.
After the polls are closed, that machine is sealed up and taken to your county's voter registration, so nobody looks at it. But if there is a question, County Voter Registration then can open up those paper records to make sure they match with what the scanning machine is saying that the vote was. But that's the only place where those paper records are touched. We can go to the next slide.
If you are a first time voter at a polling location. So whether it's your first time ever or it's a new voting location, the pole book, once you sign in, will indicate need to check voter ID. And the voter forms of ID are a driver's license, PennDOT ID card, ID, or any other ID, my Commonwealth government agency, US passport, United States government ID, armed forces ID, employer ID, that's the photo ID. Then there's another form of non photo ID that I've listed here. And again, with one of the links that I have, there will be a link to what you need for voter ID.
That's what you need to show if you are at a new polling location. Otherwise, you can't be asked for voter ID. Now with a mail-in ballot, believe it or not, every year when you apply, you want to be one of these annual mail in ballot application folks, you have to put either your Social Security or your driver's license. If you don't have either one of those, then all you need to do is photocopy one of the other IDs and attach that to your application.
Now, so that means somebody that's doing a mail-in ballot once a year has to show some form of voter ID. Somebody going into their polling place, this is their polling place for 20 years, they don't have to show voter ID. You only have to show it if you're new to that polling place. So it's-- people that think that folks that vote by mail don't have to show voter ID are a little bit misinformed.
So let's talk about voter accessibility. Let's jump to the next. So this is a link to the Department of State's Voter Accessibility Toolbox. It will tell you everything you need to know about accessible voting machines, getting accessible mail-in ballots, what happens if your polling place is not accessible, an alternative ballot option. So again, under mail-in ballot, there are accessible ballot marking options.
All you have to do for this is first apply for your mail-in ballot. Within 24 hours of applying for your mail-in ballot, you send a request for this accessible remote ballot. And again, on the Department of State Toolbox, the link to that application is right there. And I'm pretty sure a screen reader will walk you through it.
After that all goes in, once the ballots are finalized, you will get in the mail information on what you need to do to access this ballot marking electronic option. I could not-- I didn't-- I could not figure out whether I could see what that looks like. So I can't really describe it. Maybe one of our other panelists has used this and can describe it better for you. But there is that option in Pennsylvania for somebody who wants to do mail-in voting but wants to use the screen reader or some other marking than pen and pencil.
Also, if you're going to want to use a drop box but you can't physically do it, all you need is to apply is to fill out an Agent Declaration. Once again, that's part of the Department of State Toolbox. And that person who has your ballot that they're dropping off at the drop box, will have that piece of paper with them just in case they're asked by a monitor.
Some drop boxes will have folks there. Some drop boxes will have TV monitoring screens. I lost that word there for a second. But have that person have that with them when they drop it off just in case they're asked about it.
In person, once again, the voting locations must be accessible. If they're not, you can get an alternative ballot option. If you have voted in your voting location for years in the polling book, it will indicate that you've already asked for assistance and won't have to complete anything or do anything else.
If in fact you're new and have somebody with you as I said before, you just have to go to the judge of elections and he or she will have them complete this agency or declaration of assistance and that person can help you. Every voting polling place is required to have ADA accessible machines.
Again, there are 67 counties. Michelle said there hasn't been a federal review since 2016. I do not know if they do a state review. But if you want to learn about your county's type ADA accessible machine, the URL is right there.
They will have-- that URL will take you to a listing of counties. I think it's I actually think it's the state of Pennsylvania map or a listing of counties. And you click on your County. It will take you directly to information on your county's voting system.
OK. We can go to the next slide. So Michelle already went through this. But in Pennsylvania, we do have the number for the Disability Rights group. So there you have it. No reason that you can't find the Disability Rights group on election day.
We can jump to the next slide. Again, here are your rights as a voter. If the polls close while you're in line, stay in line. You have a right to vote. If you make a mistake on your ballot, ask for a new one. You will be given a new one. The mistaken ballot will be torn up, "spoiled" is called. But please don't think you have to be stuck with a mistake on your ballot.
If the machines are done at your polling place, you have a right to a paper ballot that will be put in a separate place to be taken down to the County voter registration office. If the election worker the poll worker that looks in the poll book is not sure about your eligibility, your registration, your voting status, you have a right to a provisional ballot. Let's say for example, the polling book shows that you applied for a mail-in ballot, but you don't have a mail in ballot you didn't get one in the mail. You know you didn't apply for one, but for some reason it says it.
You still have a right to vote. You vote provisionally. What does that mean? Provisional ballot means that after the ballots are counted, the ballots from the voting machine-- the scanning machine are counted, then County voter registration goes through each provisional ballot and he investigates each ballot to make sure the person is registered to vote, didn't vote by mail, and is otherwise eligible.
As soon as those three things are ascertained, your vote is counted. So don't anybody let you think that you can't vote just because you're not showing up in the polling book for whatever reason. Let's go to the next slide.
What is on my ballot in 2022? Well, we've got federal and state races. We've got the Congressional. So in your congressional district, he or she, they are on the ballot. US Senate.
We have state races. Not only statewide races, but state legislative races. So we have the governor, the Lieutenant Governor, his state house and the state senate. Now, you don't know anything about your candidates, let's say. Michelle mentioned Vote411. And I don't know whether we'll have a chance for us to look at Vote411 so you can actually see what we're talking about.
But when you go on Vote411, you put in your address. And it will give you information on your polling location, on the drop boxes in your area. It will give you information on any candidate forums that may have been held and also links to any videos taken of those candidate forms that you may have missed but you want to watch the recording. It will give you all the deadlines in terms of voter registration mail-in ballot, application deadline, and obviously, the deadlines for voting.
And most importantly, it will give you who is on your ballot. Not only who is on, not only the names, but every single person that is running in every single race throughout the state of Pennsylvania was when they were invited to put their information into Vote411 was given four questions to answer about their priorities in different areas. Those answers will be on that information under the candidate's name, sometimes they've given us pictures, biographical information, and answers to those questions. It is in their words.
The League of Women Voters does no editing on anything that a candidate says so it is unedited. You will get them for real in their own voice. So it's-- I call it the jewel tool for voting. It's just phenomenal. And if we have a chance, maybe we can show it to you. Next slide.
So here are the dates. I know ad nauseum you will get this when you get my slides. Give it out to your friends. Next slide.
So we also have resources. The League of Women Voters website. We also have a Twitter handle that you can find from our website. I'm sorry. I'm not a social media maven, so I don't have our Facebook handle or Twitter handle in my brain.
But it is on our website. Vote411 as I told you. The other thing I want you to be aware of is the local leagues that I mentioned to you, the information on Vote411, they put together in a printed voter's guide for that area. So if you do like print better than going online, you have that option too. And a lot of the printed voter guides are published by your local newspaper, or they're posted on your local league of Women Voters website. Next slide.
A lot of people ask me, well, how do I get nonpartisan information about voting the candidates? There's so much stuff out there. I don't know who to believe.
Well, as I said, Vote411 will give you unedited information about your candidates and voting in Pennsylvania. Validpedia, factcheck.org are good resources to find out if you see something in the media, in social media, go to these websites to see if it's for real. These are non partisan well researched resources for anything related to voting.
And obviously, vote PA.gov. Pennsylvania Department of website-- department of State website has all things elections in PA. And while it can be difficult to get to the right spot, the first thing you see when you go on vote.pa.gov is mail-in voter registration and in-person voting. That's right there, the first thing.
So anything you want to know about any of those areas, you can find pretty easily. And I did give you the link to the accessibility toolbox. Next slide.
So please vote. Your vote is so important. Let me give you one last quote from President Truman, "a vote is the best way of getting the kind of country in the kind of World you want." So thank you very much for your wonderful attention. Anybody has any questions, I will try to answer them.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: This is Jamie speaking. Thank you so much Rochelle for that excellent information. You too are getting some applause emojis in the chat there.
I do think there are a couple of questions for you in the box. And we're going to let Philana read those out, and we'll get the answers. In the interest of time, I don't think we're going to pull 411 up right now, but we will make that available to folks so--
ROCHELLE KAPLAN: It is linked in my resources.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Wonderful. So--
ROCHELLE KAPLAN: Let me just add one thing. I know-- I did contact Vote411. Right now, screen readers are able to read everything on the Vote411 website. However, the ballot that has all that wonderful information about the candidate, there's still some glitches. By 2023, those glitches will be worked out, so you'll also be able to use your screen reader on for the ballot.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Thank you so much Rochelle for checking that out and for your transparency about that. At this time, I'm going to turn it over to Philana to check our question pane. And I'm going to ask, I think there are several questions in there, but maybe take just one or two of those and then answer the other ones in the actual chat box or the question box just in the interest of time? Thanks.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Yeah, no problem at all. Thank you Rochelle. Thank you Jamie. So the first question is just, if you moved, can you vote in your old district if you haven't been in the new one for 30 days?
ROCHELLE KAPLAN: I'm glad you asked that. Let me pull up my cheat sheet on that, because I want to make sure I get it right. So if you moved-- the question was, you're in the same County and just moved to a new polling location within 30 days.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: You [INAUDIBLE] one for 30 days, yes.
ROCHELLE KAPLAN: You will vote at the polling place for your old address. Then you will fill out a change of address form at that polling place to update your voter registration to your new address. So yes, you will vote in your old polling place. They will give you a form to update your new-- your new address. And then in 2023, you will be voting at that polling place.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Thank you, Rochelle. And Sandra, I will answer your other question in the chat. But I did just want to ask because Jill F. has a very simple question, which is just, should the date on the ballot inside and on the outer envelope be the date that you're actually filling out the ballot or the official voting day date?
ROCHELLE KAPLAN: You put the date on that outer envelope on the date that you filled out the ballot or the day that you're going to mail it or drop it off the drop box. Do not-- don't put November 8. Put the date that you are filling it out or dropping it off.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Thank you, Rochelle. And I [INAUDIBLE] to Jamie. And Sandra, I will answer your other question via message.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Thank you Philana. Thank you again, Rochelle. At this point, we're going to turn it over to Lauren Alden for some brief information about Philadelphia and the REV Up Campaign. I'm also going to encourage that if anybody needs just a quick stretch break, you can take a quick stretch break right in your seat so that we make sure we get all of this important information today. Lauren?
LAUREN ALDEN: Thanks, Jamie. I just want to say that Rochelle and Michelle are both a wealth of information and resources. So I'm so glad to be on a panel with them. I am here to talk about Philly REV Up though.
Just a quick visual description of myself. I'm a white woman wearing glasses and headphones and my background is blurred due to children and pets and Zoom life. I work at Liberty Resources which is the Center for Independent Living in Philadelphia County. We recently acquired Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County as well.
We are a non-residential cross disability nonprofit organization. We provide advocacy for people with disabilities, peer support, information and referral, skills training. And we most importantly transition folks, people with disabilities, out of nursing home and institutions and back into the community. We also provide youth transition for young adults with disabilities.
So in Philadelphia, last week, I was really happy to see that the city honored Octavius Catto, C-A-T-T-O. Octavius was a civil rights activist who died in Philadelphia while defending his right to vote in the 1800s. So it's so important that we honor people like Octavius, and we talk about this kind of stuff because today, in 2022, we're still experiencing voter suppression.
So I think currently there's like 400 voter suppression bills out there. So it's really important that we talk about it and we're aware of it. And here in PA, there's no pushback on a bill that was passed in, I believe, 2019, called Act 77, I believe that Rochelle mentioned it, it had bipartisan support when it was initiated.
It was a big improvement for accessible voting in Pennsylvania. No more absentee ballot needed. You could just vote by mail no matter what so that-- then the pandemic hit and it was wonderful that we had Act 77 in place. And people used it. So many people voted by mail.
And as a result, now we're seeing efforts to end Act 77. I think, many people out there said oh, no. This is not a good thing because voter suppression. They don't want certain people to vote.
So I think it's important that we acknowledge that there's efforts to end Act 77, but know that it is protected and safe and current in Pennsylvania. And it's a wonderful thing. So I'll try to be brief. I don't have any slides, but I have some good info I'll put in the chat with links.
But I'm really here to talk about REV UP. REV UP is a National Disability voting campaign that started in Texas with the American Association of People with Disabilities, AAPD. And REV UP, is an acronym. And it stands for Register Educate Vote Use your Power. And really, the major the efforts of REV UP are exactly what it says in the acronym, which is to help get people registered, help educate people, and to really show that the disability community is a major voting block, as Michelle mentioned with some great data in the beginning of her presentation.
My work with REV UP and partnership with REV UP started with Liberty Resources in 2018. And that was when we got a grant with REV UP. And we created the very first Liberty Resources REV UP voter guide for people with disabilities. And what it was is an information specific to the disability community on accessibility in Philadelphia. And we also created a questionnaire for all the candidates that were running that year that had any type of impact in Philadelphia.
And the questionnaire was specifically questions about items that were important to the disability community. So housing, accessibility, Social Security information. So the questions were wonderful. We sent them out to all the candidates running. We got very few responses that year.
And what we published the book with and the people who didn't respond, we noted that in the section, I think. That itself, too, is a powerful statement that we reached out to a candidate multiple times and they did not respond. And then in 2019, my involvement with REV UP had a lot to do with the decision on the new voting machines.
So Philadelphia was looking at getting new voting machines. And of course, we wanted them not to make the same mistake they had made 20 years before and not have them be accessible. So we wanted to make sure that they were going to be accessible machines. And to make a long story short, the big fight for the voting machines that year was there was a big group of people who wanted to have paper ballots and not a voting machine. And they thought that the disability community would be right on board with them, but we weren't.
Excuse me. Handwritten ballots are not accessible for all. You need to have a separate voting machine for people who are doing it in person with disabilities. So we were not supporting that. And in the long run, we-- Commissioner Deeley from Philadelphia ended up going with the express XL, I believe, which is the machine used today. These machines have attachable headphones, they have a large interface where the font can change, they can move up and down, they can do read back.
Are they perfect? No. But they are OK. I mean, they're pretty accessible if someone with a disability votes on the same machine that an able-bodied person does. There is a part where once you cast your ballot, it slides down through a panel and for you to be able to check what you did, and then submit it back up.
And that part is not accessible. So I don't believe that at that point when the ballot slides back down into the panel for you to double check your answers or your-- what you voted for, that cannot be read back. So that is one piece that is not accessible, that we weren't happy about.
But moving on. And then in 2020, the infamous 2020, we created another voting guide through REV UP through a grant with them. And we had another questionnaire for all the candidates in Philadelphia. And the questions were all related to the disability community. And these guides are all available online, and we have hard copies too.
And then this voting season, this year actually, Philly REV UP formed. So Philadelphia REV UP is a really hyper local version of the National campaign. There's a few organizations, Disability Pride, United Spinal are in the coalition. So really, it's a bunch of local disability organizations that wanted to form a coalition where we work together to do voter engagement for people with disabilities and show candidates that the disability community is a major voting block.
And we did another voter guide this year where we created another questionnaire. We made it much shorter than the previous years because we realized that might encourage candidates to complete it. And we got the candidates responses. And we published it.
However, it is considered a live document, so that we can continue to publish candidates responses to the questionnaire as we get them. And people can see them updated digitally, this document. And I will post this in the chat for people to have the link to this voter guide for 2022 election.
We also-- Philly REV UP had a Voter Lunch and Learn just last week. And we had the Philadelphia commissioners Deeley and Sevier attend and talk about their work in Philadelphia. We had state rep, Joe Hohenstein spoke and Tom Earle, the CEO of Liberty Resources, spoke.
And we had one of our consumers, Joyce Ferria spoke. She's a consumer who has a disability. And she's a poll worker. So she spoke about her efforts in working the polls as a woman with a disability.
And one of our long term goals is to really get political power for the disability community in Philadelphia. And by that, I mean, we would love to get folks with disabilities on the ballots. So we plan to work with EMILY's List which is an organization that works to get women with-- or excuse me, just women, encourages women to be on the ballot and to run for offices.
I actually have these really cool pins from EMILY's List. One says elect women. Another says elect Black women. And another says disabled women. And I said to them when I got the pins I would love a pin that said elect Black disabled women. That would be fabulous.
But they're really cool organization. And at Philly REV UP, we're really excited to work with them, to encourage people with women with disabilities, specifically to be on the ballot. And we also are encouraging folks to be poll workers, like the woman I mentioned before, Joyce. Something that we did-- Joyce and I worked together on was to make sure that the place that she would be a poll worker was accessible because unfortunately, even though many places should be accessible, as the previous panelists mentioned, most of them-- or a lot of them will not be.
So she is able to be a poll worker at her local polling location. However, they don't have an accessible bathroom. So it's a long day. When she has to go to the bathroom, she has to roll home in her wheelchair and roll back to the polling location. So that's just one thing that is an example of things that we could do better as a city.
But for Philadelphia REV UP, we would love folks to join our coalition whether it be a person or an organization. And I will put that information in the chat as well of where you can link in to join us. And I will put the booklet in there too.
I just can't do two things at once. So I'll do it right when I'm done speaking. And if you're not interested in joining the coalition, I just encourage you to keep an eye out for events that Philly REV UP will have, hopefully in person events, more of those that we just had last week, and virtual events too though.
And then one thing I just wanted to say was I think it's incumbent upon all of us, whether disabled, able-bodied, wheelchair user or not, to speak up at an election or excuse me, polling places. If you go to your polling places, usually they have a portable ramp but it's not out where the heavy door is shut.
Tell them, hey, you need to put your ramp up. You need to open the door. Because there are, I'm sure, too many instances where someone rolled up to a polling place and just didn't vote because there was no ramp up there. And they didn't feel like speaking up, so. That is really an effort also of Philadelphia REV UP is to get people engaged, able-bodied and disabled folks, in making sure our voting rights are intact and being honored.
And then one more thing because I know we're running short on time, but I wanted to just mention something that really stuck with me one time that I heard someone say was to people who say, oh my vote doesn't count is-- tell those people well, if your vote doesn't count, why are so many organizations and PACs and people spending billions of dollars to not have your vote count? That's something to think about. I may have even heard that from one of the other panelists who spoke at some point, but I find that information or find that a really good comeback to people who say, oh my vote doesn't really count.
And with that, I know we're short on time so I will leave it there. And I'll put the info in the chat for everyone. And I just want to thank you for having me too. Oh Michelle, it was you. Thank you for that.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Thank you so much, Lauren. We really appreciate you being with us today and sharing information about Philly REV UP. If there are any questions for Lauren, I'm going to ask that Philana or Kate answer those in the chat or let Lauren know what those questions are so that she can answer.
At this time, I want to turn it over to our lived experience participants, Jule Ann Lieberman and Shawntel Ward. I want to thank them for their patience and for being with us today. We really want to hear what you have to share. And I would ask our webinar participants, we know we're running a little bit over time, but if you could hang with us, I think you'll get some additional good information.
And we definitely want to get this information for our recording as well for folks who might be viewing this later. So with that, I'm going to turn it over to Jule Ann and Shawntel, and I believe Philana has some questions for you both. Thank you.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Hi, Jule Ann and Shawntel.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: So in the interest of time, I will be scaling down some of the questions that we went over. But I definitely want to talk about-- I definitely want to talk about your experiences voting [INAUDIBLE] experience folks. So can one of you tell me about a time when you had a positive voting experience?
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Go ahead, Jule Ann.
JULE ANN LIEBERMAN: Voting has always been very important to me. And I also have pressed this along to my three children now all of which are adults. And one of the most positive experiences was when my son was assisting me. He was probably middle school at the time.
His younger sister came to the polling place with us because their elementary school had an opportunity for the students to vote for whoever they wanted. And it was a photos of the candidates, they circle and put in the box. And I'm sure the woman from the League of Women Voters will appreciate this, Rochelle, as we left, my son said to my daughter, well, who did you vote for? And she turned and said, I have a right to a secret ballot.
And I said so true. She's a chip off the old block. Because for me, it's very important for me to have my votes count. And my son was always instructed, when he was my assistant, this is before HAVA, before 2008, he was always instructed to make sure that he didn't share whoever I voted for. And he did.
He-- and all my kids, over time have helped me with this, all have that understanding how important it is for me to let my choices be known to the people that are counting the votes, not necessarily broadcast everybody. So we've made those kind of accommodations over the years. And so that was my favorite positive experience. I influenced my daughter from an early age.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Thank you Jule Ann. And Shawntel, if you want to share.
SHAWNTEL WARD: That was a great story. Thanks for sharing. Those young advocates, we need them. Well, for me, I guess one of my positive experience, especially as a newly deaf person, I lost my hearing, just a quick overview, in 2018. So I didn't regain, I guess, hearing but I wear a cochlear implant. So it helps me process it and sound, whatnot.
So by the time I was able to get that turned on, it wasn't until 2019. So going through that process, I didn't vote that year because I was going through physical therapy and whatnot. But by the time I was able to hear again, I received assistance from my parents.
So going to the polling place, it was very easily accessible actually. Going in, everything was on the same floor. So I didn't have any problems. I was using a cane at the time. So that was a very helpful thing. I didn't have to worry about steps and whatnot.
And there-- the booth that I was in, it was very clear, everything all the directions, and everything and my parents helped me navigate as well. So that I had a great experience once when I became a newly deaf person.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Thank you for sharing Shawntel.
SHAWNTEL WARD: Thank you.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: So to follow up on that, what about challenges to voting? So can you share a time when you faced difficulties when attempting to vote and if and how you were able to overcome them? I know Jule Ann, you already mentioned HAVA. Jule, whoever wants to take it?
JULE ANN LIEBERMAN: Yes, sure. The Help America Vote Act made a big improvement in my ability to vote. We used an electronic voting machine back then. And it didn't have paper, but it has changed and now we do use paper. The machine does read the ballot, reviews the questions, but once I print it, I don't know what it is.
So Lauren, you're right. Hopefully the machine has actually printed what my-- made my choices. So I kind of have to take that on faith that it did submit my answers. But the negative story that I have is-- this was in 2018, when the whole voting machines were being reviewed.
And I went to vote and they know-- they've voted in the same place for 39 years, they know me. And when I said that I was using the needed the accessible electronic voting, one of the poll workers-- oh, we were told to discourage people from using it. I went oh yeah?
She yeah, I don't know how I set it up. I said find out how to set it up. I'm not leaving until I vote. Now, with that said, I always vote at a time when it's probably least busy. I tried to do that so in case we do have these difficulties.
And so she was kind of flustered. And I said don't worry I'll talk to the County Board of Elections, so we correct that error in the future. And we did get a new machine after that. And they're very helpful now in getting me set up.
One new improvement to that has happened as a result of this is the electronic voting machine is now lower. You don't have to stand to use it, which I think is a big improvement for people that need wheel mobility as well. So even though, when I've cast my vote, it is E001, I'm the only person using that electronic ballot machine, the accessible machine, in my precinct. I continue to use it because I always-- I have the theory of if it, don't use it, it goes away. And I want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity in the future to vote the same way I do right now.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Thanks so much Jule Ann. Shawntel, do you of an experience you want to share?
SHAWNTEL WARD: I recall going to a high school. And for some reason, there's so many steps to get down to the polling area. And then you couldn't even find it. I was like, wait a minute, all these hallways and doors. And I was like, if you weren't familiar with the school-- and it wasn't really that too many signs.
There were some signs, but it wasn't like arrows. It was just [INAUDIBLE] so it was difficult to navigate. But eventually, I found it and somebody saw me in the hallway looking lost and they were like, hello. I'm like yes, I'm here to vote. That was my own story that was like well, this is kind of ridiculous.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: That is kind of ridiculous.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: That should not be the case. That's disorienting for anyone for sure. So I wanted to ask, since in the interest of time, I wanted to ask just if you could change one thing about voting in PA, what would it be?
What would have made your experience easier? Looking towards the future, what can make the experience easier for other folks with disabilities? Shawntel, I'll ask you to answer first since we went to Jule Ann first a couple of times.
SHAWNTEL WARD: [INAUDIBLE] what I change? I guess want people to guide and help those of any type of authority, no matter if it's physical or they're blind. Someone to actually say, hey, tap me on the shoulder and say, do you really-- what help do you need or [INAUDIBLE]? Some people are very independent and they're like no, I don't need your help.
But of course you're going to have a segment of the population, they may come by themselves. They may have come by bus or cab or have you, and they're like, you know what? They want to still give their vote. And but yet they're not really sure how to navigate that particular polling place. They might be their first time going there.
So I think it would be great having like big signs as well for people who may-- they can see a little bit but, maybe their vision is blurred, and just help them-- get them more guidance as they come through the doors. Even before they come through the doors. Maybe a greeter or two that can actually say, you know what, I can't help you choose the candidate, but do you know-- what do you know about these candidates? Hopefully, you make an informed decision on your own, but I will help you with names if you can't see them and things like that.
JULE ANN LIEBERMAN: I totally agree with that Shawntel. And I think one of the ways you might be able to approach this is by having a education process for the poll workers, getting disability etiquette, what the accommodations that people may be asking for, and how to provide that appropriately. I think that would be a big step in making the voting process more accessible and user friendly, as I like to say, for persons with disabilities.
The other thing this is when we talk about the electronic ballot, one clarification I do want to make. Screen readers actually read the whatever's on the screen. That if it is coded properly, it should read the entire ballot. And when persons that are blind are marking the ballot, they use the keyboard just like anybody else does, so they can mark it on the ballot and then print it.
So what I'd like to see, though, is-- as we heard from Michelle, some states do allow you to electronically submit it. Because the biggest barrier that I've heard from people that use this process in printing the ballot was that they had no idea where the signatures were on that the envelope-- that the mailing envelope. Since they couldn't see it, there was no markings on it tacked on markings, so they weren't even aware that the signature box was there plus the dating.
So those kind of things that if we are going to be going through this, we could probably save a lot of anxiety if we can submit it electronically. If I can pay my credit card bill online and shop a lot on Amazon, that we can have a secure method created for electronic submission as well. But in the meantime, making the envelopes more accessible with some tactile guides so that people can find where the signature is and so that they can actually sign their name and mail it in the proper envelope.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Yeah, thank you Jule Ann. I mean, the mailing envelopes are confusing I think across the board.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Any indicators would probably be great on those.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: I don't know if we want to ask more questions or if we want to open it up for questions, Jamie?
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: So, this is Jamie speaking. We appreciate you, Shawntel and Jule Ann, so much for sticking with us and for sharing your personal experiences. I think since it is just a little bit after 2:00 right now, what we're going to do is open it up to see if there are any questions from our audience members. I do think I saw that someone had a hand raised, so we can do that.
PHILANA PELLEGRINO: Suzanne, I believe, [INAUDIBLE] has their hand raised. If we could unmute--
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Suzanne, I think if you're on the phone, you can use star 9 to unmute.
JULE ANN LIEBERMAN: I think it's 6.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Or you could try star 6. Thank you Jule Ann.
SUZANNE: I'm unmuted now. For some reason, in some of this particular iteration of Zoom, they want you to use this particular button. And I'm actually using my screen reader and Zoom. But anyway, but Jule Ann, I am so glad-- you basically touched on just about all of the points that I was going to ask to have brought up. So I'm so glad that you did.
The only thing that you didn't touch on is the whole thing about when we, as people who are totally blind, vote, if we do get assistance in the polls, we still don't know if that person really voted the way we wanted them to vote. So because that's still-- so it's not, as far as I'm concerned, I really agree with you on everything that you've said. And I really do hope that there is at some point, some way, that we can vote online.
Although, I must say I do like showing up at the polls. And I do like having them see that I am voting and that I vote all the time. And it is important, I think, for people to see that. So to everybody, please, please, please get out and vote.
JULE ANN LIEBERMAN: I can't agree with you more, Suzanne, that-- that's why one of the reasons why I vote in person because I want people to understand that blind people have a right to vote and anybody with a disability has a right to vote. And so I do make it a visible presence there.
But getting back to the, are you sure that the person marked the ballot correctly? That's why I always have the person of my choice. And it was always one of my children once they learned to read because my husband and I were of different political parties.
So needless to say, I trusted my son or my daughter eventually as well because they got it. They understood that my vote did matter. And that not that I don't trust my husband so much, but let's put it this way. It saved a lot of arguments if I had my son or my daughter do it.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: So this is Jamie speaking again. Thank you for the question, Suzanne. I again, want to Thank Jule Ann and Shawntel for taking the time to share their personal experiences with us today and giving us some great information. You're getting a lot of hearts and love in the chat as well.
I would like to say at this time, thank you to all of our panelists and also to our audience members for taking the time to be with us today to get this valuable information. Couple of things I just want to let you know, as we said, at the beginning, this webinar was being recorded. And it will be housed on the Institute on Disabilities website, along with some other important voting resources after this event.
And also, anyone who was registered for this event and came on today will receive a survey at the end of this event. And your answers to that survey are very much appreciated as they help us improve and expand upon the work that we do here at the Institute on Disabilities. So I would just again, like to thank everyone and wish everybody a great voting experience. I think ending on the note, just get out and vote is a great place to end. Thank you.
JULE ANN LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Jamie. Thank everyone.
Download Event Slides
- Basics of Voting in Pennsylvania, presented by Rochelle Kaplan, Director of Voter Services, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania (PowerPoint)
- Access for Voters with Disabilities: National Overview, presented by Michelle Bishop, Voter Access and Engagement Manager, National Disability Rights Network - Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Disabilities (PowerPoint)
Photo of Robert Zotynia by Pamela Zotynia.