The Disability Resource and Advocacy Center hosted a mock election Tuesday for people with disabilities to prepare them to vote in a real election. SeRonna Johnson, director of The Disability Resource and Advocacy Center, welcomed visitors and helped them to understand the voting process. She helped host a voter registration drive along with the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office.
“We are hosting a rev up the vote campaign for individuals with disabilities to get out the vote,” Johnson said. “If we remain silent, then our voices cannot be heard. But if we get out and get registered, we educate ourselves on our rights and responsibilities. A lot of people with disabilities have not gone to vote.”
Some people with disabilities do not want to use another person to vote because of privacy concerns, she said. The new voting machines solve that problem, she said.
“We want them to use the new machines so they will understand how to utilize them,” Johnson said. “These machines allow people with disabilities to vote and it's confidential.”
Johnson alluded to Congressional Republicans' efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to pass a bill that would strip healthcare coverage from about 23 million Americans. Johnson said that Americans with disabilities want to live independently and that those arrangements are less expensive than living in an institution or assisted living facility. They face obstacles with polling places not being accessible to a wheelchair, she said.
The new machines assist people who are visually impaired, she said.
“Every time we do an intake, we ask people if they are registered,” Johnson said.
Organizations that serve people with disabilities are holding similar voter drives this week, she said. Darren Morris is a self-advocate coordinator at Disability Rights Arkansas and took part in the drive. He works with children and adults.
“They have the same rights to vote,” Morris said.
Arkansas Rep. Andy Mayberry of District 27 encouraged the visitors to exercise their right to vote. He discussed the importance of voting.
“A lot of times folks like to talk about all the things that are wrong and the things they wish were fixed, but they have not gone and voted,” Mayberry said. “And that's the key. We don't live in a direct democracy. We don't vote on every single thing that comes up. We don't vote on whether there is going to be a speed limit change. But we vote for the people who make those laws. So it's very important to understand who the candidates are and what they think about different issues and to stay engaged with those people after they get elected to let them know what the issues are and how you feel about them.”
Johnson said her clients have protested Congressional Republicans' proposals to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by holding sit-in demonstrations in the offices of U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, Republicans of Arkansas.