In Alabama, voters with disabilities and underlying health conditions will now have to decide if it is worth risking their lives to vote in the 2020 general election. On Wednesday night, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a ruling that would have allowed, but not required, counties in Alabama to offer curbside voting. Instead, the Supreme Court sided with the Alabama Secretary of State to ban all counties in that state from allowing curbside voting. Alabama officials also do not require the use of masks or social distancing at poll sites, further increasing the risks of voting in-person for people who have disabilities and health conditions.

So “many of my [ancestors] even died to vote. And while I don’t mind dying to vote, I think we’re past that time.”

So “many of my [ancestors] even died to vote. And while I don’t mind dying to vote, I think we’re past that time,” stated Howard Porter Jr., a plaintiff in the case. He is a black man in his 70s who has both Parkinson’s disease and asthma. His words are a haunting reminder that the right to vote is a freedom and that this freedom can be taken away.

“Why does a decision about Alabama voters matter to North Carolinians?  Because this court decision sets a precedent for other states,” said Holly Stiles, Litigation Counsel with Disability Rights NC. “So earlier this week, DRNC joined several leading national advocacy groups to file an amicus brief in the case.* The brief urges the Supreme Court to consider the health risk this decision would pose for the people who traditionally use curbside voting – older adults, people with at-risk conditions like asthma or diabetes, and people with disabilities. It also outlines how curbside voting is a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”

Curbside voting allows people the option to vote just outside the polling location from a vehicle and has been allowed in North Carolina for a long time. Our State Board of Elections supports the use of curbside voting for people with disabilities and health conditions that make in-person voting either an impossibility or a health hazard, and curbside voting is supposed to be available at every poll site throughout the state.

But DRNC has found that, in practice, curbside voting is not consistently offered. Our voting team has worked tirelessly to change that. We have set up monitors throughout the state for all 17 days of early voting to make sure those who need curbside voting are able to get it. Because of these efforts, we are able to resolve the reported problems that come up in North Carolina as they happen.

30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disability rights are still not guaranteed and under constant threat. People in North Carolina may be taking our ability to vote curbside for granted. We need to remain vigilant in protecting the right of people with disabilities to vote. Use our voting hotline (1-888-WEVOTE-2) to report any difficulties you, or others with disabilities, have voting in person, or using curbside voting.

Want to do more? DRNC is calling for a #WeVote2 Day of Action at poll sites around the state on October 29, 2020. We invite people with disabilities and disability advocates to stand together on this day. Sign up for a two-hour shift on Oct. 29 to monitor curbside voting at a poll site of your choice, statewide.

* An amicus brief is a statement that people or organizations with special expertise in an issue write to make sure the court has the information it needs to make an informed decision.