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Monday, January 27, 2020

Iowa Caucuses

In The Politics of Autism, I write:  "Support from the general public will be an important political asset for autistic people. Another will be their sheer numbers, since a larger population of identified autistic adults will mean more autistic voters and activists."

But the Iowa caucuses, the first event in the presidential nomination season, create barriers for people with autism and other disabilities.

Maggie Astor at NYT:
Talk to Iowans with disabilities and you will hear the same story over and over: a nightmarish experience in 2016, and repeated pleas that bring only vague assurances that 2020 will be better.
The state Democratic and Republican Parties say they have worked hard to make it so. The Democrats have an online form for people to request accommodations by Monday; the Republicans list a phone number, an email address and a Friday deadline. But they have publicized the processes perfunctorily if at all.

The Democrats released their form just this month, with a tweet saying they were “excited to announce” that they were offering an accommodation request process “for the first time ever.” Asked whether the Republicans had advertised theirs, a spokesman, Aaron Britt, put the onus on advocates.
“The disabilities groups are really good about making sure they get out our process,” he said. “If an Iowan has a disability but they want to be able to caucus, it’s pretty easy for them to find out what exactly they need to do.”

Yet in a state where some 300,000 registered voters have disabilities, the Republicans had received one accommodation request as of Friday, according to Mr. Britt. Ms. Koski said the Democrats had received about 160. Some additional requests have gone to local officials: Judy Downs, the executive director of the Polk County Democrats, estimated that she had fielded two dozen.
Caucusgoers said they had struggled to navigate the request processes, or hadn’t known they existed until recent days. Even those seeking simple accommodations — a chair, for instance — described a mass of red tape and unreturned calls.
Although this article does not mention autism, caucuses can be extremely stressful for many people on the spectrum.   They can be noisy, crowded, chaotic, and they require intense social interactions with strangers.