Registration drive set for voters with disabilities

Sessions will be in C.R. and Coralville

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Special voter registration drives for voters with disabilities will be conducted by the Iowa Secretary of State on Tuesday and Thursday in Cedar Rapids and Coralville, respectively.

Secretary of State Paul Pate estimates about 300,000 Iowans have a disability, and statistics show people with disabilities are less likely to vote than the general population.

“I am committed to helping each eligible Iowan be a voter,” Pate said about the drives that are part of National Disability Voter Registration Week.

“I want to encourage everyone to register to vote,” he said. “Attend a registration drive, or use one of the many different methods we offer for registering to vote, including online.”

The events are conducted by the Central Iowa Center for Independent Living and Access 2 Independence, in collaboration with the Register, Educate, Vote, Use your Power (REVUP) campaign.

Catherine Crist of Cedar Rapids welcomes the drives and says the number of Iowa voters with a disability may be higher than generally thought.

Crist, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Disability Caucus and co-chairwoman of the National Association of Democratic Disability Caucuses, said it’s not just those with visible disabilities who may need help registering and voting.

“It’s pretty significant,” she said. People with disabilities are the largest minority population in the country, generally estimated to be between 17 percent and 25 percent of the voting eligible population.

Also often overlooked, Crist said, is that “we age into disability.” As people age, they may have hearing or vision impairments. Not only does that affect voting, but if people give up their driver’s licenses, they may have additional challenges in registering and voting.

A law passed this year by the Iowa Legislature directs the Secretary of State’s Office to provide voter identification cards to Iowans without driver’s licenses.

When barriers to voter registration and voting are removed, Crist said, people with disabilities will vote. “They find it very important.”

Among people with disabilities, about 51 percent tend to vote Democratic and 49 percent vote Republican, based on research Crist has seen.

To learn more about resources available to help Iowans with disabilities register to vote and cast their ballot, visit sos.iowa.gov/disabilities. The page includes a link for registering to vote online and for downloading a voter registration form. The registration form is screen reader-friendly. Large print voter registration forms for Iowans with low vision are also available for downloading from sos.iowa.gov.

Special registration drives will be:

l July 18 — 1 to 4 p.m. at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, 450 Fifth Ave. SE

l July 20 — 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Coralville Public Library, 1401 Fifth St.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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