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."
For individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), in-person voting may present challenges. Autistic voters may encounter hurdles at local election sites that can discourage them. For example, crowded spaces, long lines and wait times, and sensory impacts from harsh lighting and loud noise levels can be especially difficult. Some people with autism do not communicate verbally but may use a family member to help them navigate and/or a device for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), which may be unfamiliar to others and questioned by poll workers.
Voting rights activists argue the new state restrictions passed in the name of ballot security have made it harder for all voters, including those with disabilities, to cast a mail-in ballot. Indeed, Texas election officials rejected nearly 23,000 mail-in ballots during the March primary—around 13% of total ballots cast. The typical rejection rate in Texas primaries is less than 2%.
Around the country, new voting restrictions driven by former President Donald Trump’s lie about widespread voter fraud have complicated an already difficult process for 38 million disabled voters—a diverse community with differing physical, sensory and cognitive abilities.
When Georgia banned handing out water in voting lines, and Wisconsin banned ballot drop boxes and absentee voting assistance, and Florida limited absentee ballot collection efforts, voters with disabilities faced additional hurdles that have and will continue to prevent many from exercising their constitutional right. Last year, 19 states enacted new voting restrictions, including limits on early and mail-in voting. Several states, including Arizona and Georgia, have added more restrictions this year.
Advocates for voters with disabilities have fought these measures through lawsuits and broad voter education efforts. That has proven challenging, however, as advocates navigate sudden shifts as measures make their way through the judicial system and undergo last-minute legislative changes during the primary season.