If there's anything to take away from this election, it's that people shouldn't have to risk their lives to vote during a pandemic or even a particularly harsh flu season. Many people with disabilities have weakened immune systems, making viruses like COVID-19 just another hurdle they need to clear in order to cast their ballot.
While there are many barriers to voting for people with disabilities, not all of which can be addressed with mail-in ballots or early voting, these policies are an important first step in helping them safely and comfortably exercise their rights.
"Voting issues that may affect people with disabilities include waiting in long lines," Monique May, MD, a board-certified family medicine practitioner with more than 20 years experience treating children and adults, told POPSUGAR. For people with musculoskeletal and nervous systems disabilities, waiting in line can aggravate chronic underlying problems — and some may not be able to do it at all, which could rob them of their constitutional right to vote.
Dr. May explained that this issue extends to people with psychiatric disabilities because being surrounded by crowds, loud noises, and long lines can cause stress and aggravate their symptoms. "Early voting and clear absentee voting policies will certainly help give these vulnerable citizens options that allow them to vote," Dr. May said. "Policies also need to be created and enforced so that voters who opt to vote by mail or early can track their votes to make sure they are counted."
Early and mail-in voting will be crucial in future elections, but realistically, this is something that needs to be addressed on the state level. Parker explained that although the Constitution ensures the right to vote, elections are conducted by the state, and each state has their own policies and procedures. The Constitution lays out the powers of the federal government and all other powers are reserved for the states," Parker told POPSUGAR.
He added that you could argue that, under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, states should offer the same process for voting — but that argument is unlikely to gain traction with the current Supreme Court.