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."
Much of the criticism of the voter suppression bills Republicans have been passing has, understandably, been focused on how those laws will hurt people of color. But as Republicans assaulted voting rights in state legislatures, plenty of people with disabilities predicted that the new laws would hurt them, too. Unfortunately, they have been proven right. People with disabilities have seen their ability to cast a ballot significantly curtailed.
During Texas’s primary election last month, Stateline has reported, many voters with disabilities reached out to Disability Rights Texas because either they had not received their mail-in ballots in time for the election or they had had their ballots rejected because of new signature and personal identification requirements.
The law requires that people who assist a voter with their ballot must fill out new paperwork that discloses their relationship with the voter and specifically prohibits people who accept compensation from providing assistance, which worries people with disabilities who require care workers to perform daily tasks. According to The Associated Press, the typical mail ballot rejection rate is around 2 percent but, during last month’s election in Texas, that rejection rate skyrocketed to around 13 percent.
But the rights of people with disabilities are not only being violated in Texas. When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is not bullying LGBTQ+ people in schools or doing his best Donald Trump impersonation by picking a fight with Disney, he is passing a law that criminalizes anyone who delivers or even “physically possesses” more than two vote-by-mail ballots, excluding immediate family members, “including supervised voting at assisted living facilities and nursing home facilities.”
That overwhelmingly and disproportionately affects people with disabilities who often have to stay home either because they are in assisted-living facilities or because of chronic illness. As DeSantis takes pride in thumbing his nose at public health recommendations, plenty of people with disabilities may not be able to go outside for risk of contracting Covid-19, which makes collecting ballots all the more necessary. But in DeSantis’s Florida, both wearing a mask and helping someone cast a ballot is tantamount to communism.
A federal judge recently blocked the law, but Florida is certain to appeal that ruling.