Local disability advocacy groups pushing for voter registration

With primary elections less than a month away, local disability advocacy groups are coming together to get people with disabilities registered to vote. 

The City of Milwaukee Election Commission, Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition, IndependenceFirst and the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County have partnered together to celebrate National Disability Voter Registration Week. 

"It's critically important because there are challenged populations in the City of Milwaukee who I think are subject to additional barriers around registration and access to a ballot on election day," Neil Albrecht, Executive Director or the City of Milwaukee Election Commission said.

The City says more than 340,000 people in Wisconsin with disabilities are eligible to vote. However, they face many issues in both registering and voting. For Anntrice Brown, a Milwaukee woman with visual impairments, she's looking forward to voting for the first time this year without any help, thanks to AutoMARK voting machines.

"I'm very excited," Brown said. "Excuse my enthusiasm, but I am. We are seen as sheltered and a lot of people feel their vote doesn't count but in reality, all votes count."

"Vote as if your life depends on it because it truly does," Brian Peters with IndependenceFirst said through a sign language interpreter. "That's a very important thing for people with disabilities to recognize."

In addition to showing folks how they can vote on AutoMARK machines, they're registering people with disabilities as well. 

According to Albrecht, Wisconsin had the second highest voter turnout in the 2016 Presidential Election. However, only 60 percent of voters came out. Registering more people with disabilities and taking down barriers for them may help those numbers increase. 

"It's a basic civil right," Barbara Beckert with IndependenceFirst said. "It's important that folks with disabilities aren't deprived of that right."

"Any time a population doesn't have access to the ballot, democracy really isn't functioning because every person should have the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to vote," Albrecht said. "It can even determine the outcome of an election."

Those with a disability or not can register to vote online before July 25th at myvote.wi.gov

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