Kenya Myers is like the Energizer Bunny – she just keeps going, and going, and going. As Disability Rights North Carolina’s (DRNC’s) Voting Rights Advocate, Myers is working at top speed these days to secure the voting rights of North Carolinians with disabilities during the 2022 Election cycle.
Myers is determined and passionate. “Voting is a fundamental right for every American, and it shouldn’t be difficult to vote,” she said. “But for so many people, and especially people with disabilities, it is burdensome and sometimes impossible to vote. We are working hard to change that picture in North Carolina.”
People with disabilities have enormous voting power: one in four people eligible to vote has a disability, but disabled people don’t vote at the same rate as people without disabilities, because of barriers to voting.
If disabled voters voted at the same rate as the general population, there would be an additional 2.3 million more voters.
Access the Vote NC
That’s why Myers helped create DRNC’s nonpartisan #AccessTheVoteNC project that aims to make voting accessible and available to people with disabilities. Working with other DRNC staff, individual volunteers, and partner agencies like the NC NAACP, NC Black Alliance, Meals on Wheels, Equality NC, Democracy NC, and the ACLU of NC, Myers is overseeing the following efforts:
- Distributing voting information on voting rights and how to register to vote through several Meals on Wheels programs
- For July primary elections, making accessible accessible voter guides, including audio versions, available in English and in Spanish for eight cities and counties
- Monitoring curbside voting in 20 counties to ensure primary curbside voting ran efficiently and effectively; DRNC will continue and expand this project for the General Election in November.
- Testing the physical accessibility of voting in dozens of counties
- Organizing accessible voting machine monitoring with partners, such as You Can Vote, throughout the state (you can help – see info in box!)
- Ensuring complaints about accessibility during the voting process are triaged quickly and that appropriate agencies are notified to address the issues quickly, the same day if possible
- Ensuring that accurate, reliable information about voting is provided to voters with disabilities.
Want to join us in making sure your precinct is accessible? Fill out this form when you vote in person. It will notify DRNC in real time of any issues we need to address. It’s quick and easy!
Legal advocacy to improve access to voting for people with disabilities
DRNC’s #AccessTheVoteNC isn’t the only voting rights work that DRNC we are doing. We are also taking our fight to the courts. Just this week, a federal judge agreed with DRNC that a NC law limiting voting assistance violates the Voting Rights Act. This means people with disabilities who live in congregate settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities can get assistance from facility staff, or anyone else they choose, rather than having to rely on specified – and sometimes inaccessible – assistance. In addition, this ruling also protects the right to assistance for voters with disabilities who do not live in facilities, but who need assistance with absentee voting by mail.
Additionally, following a lawsuit DRNC legal staff filed in coalition with Disability Rights Advocates, the NC Council of the Blind, the Governor Morehead School Alumni Association Inc., and several NC voters with disabilities, last June, a federal judge ordered the NC Board of Elections to take immediate steps to ensure that blind voters would have equal access to the 2021 municipal elections and all subsequent elections. As a result, blind voters in NC can now vote independently by using the same accessible online voting system that is offered to military and voters overseas.
Myers is energized by the power disabled voters have while also realistic about the barriers they face. Unphased by the amount of work ahead, she is determined to keep going until all people with disabilities can fully exercise their right to vote in NC.
Do you have a concern about whether a precinct is accessible to disabled voters? Are you a voter with a disability who has faced barriers to voting? Call DRNC’s voter hotline at 1-888-WEVOTE-2.