By Terri Dee
Indiana News Service
INDIANA — This election season, Indiana will have a new governor or perhaps a new mayor of Indianapolis. One group is working to increase voter participation from Hoosiers with disabilities, who may sometimes feel left out of the process.
“Beyond the Ballot” is a nonpartisan virtual meeting tonight, Monday, Sept. 11. The goal is to inform residents about different ways to be involved in the upcoming elections.
Kristen Dulaney, special projects manager with Indiana Disability Rights, said the online session is an opportunity for people to take a deep look at how decisions are made, at the Indiana statehouse and nationally.
“It’s so important for the disability community to feel like they’re fully represented throughout the entire election process,” said Dulaney. “We have the right to vote. And yes, we should make our voice heard.”
The virtual meeting is tonight at 6 p.m. Eastern time. Dulaney said it will include a brief refresher on disability voting rights, how to be a poll worker, and ways to volunteer for a political campaign.
More information is online at ‘hoosiersvote.org.’
A Rutgers University report shows voter turnout surged among citizens with disabilities in 2020 – increasing almost 6% compared to the 2016 general election.
One of the speakers at tonight’s event is Grace Kestler, executive director of the Arc of Bartholomew County.
Kestler, who has a disability, is also a city councilor-at-large in Columbus, Indiana – and said she’ll share her experience as an elected official.
“If we can empower our communities to know that, you know, there are so many ways to get involved in it,” said Kestler. “And some ways are simpler than other ways, but it’s a great opportunity to learn about how your community or how your city works.”
The Rutgers report claims if people with disabilities voted at the same rate as those without disabilities who have the same demographic characteristics, there would be about 1.75 million more voters nationwide.
The study also found increased turnout among people with disabilities across all disability types and demographics.