ATLANTA – Today, as Texas Republicans are advancing SB 7, legislation that directly targets disabled voters, Fair Fight Action launched a Disability Council made up of a diverse group of disability advocates. Members include Fair Fight Action’s Dom Kelly, former Congressman Tony Coelho, Sarah Blahovec, Emily Blum, Patrick Cokley, Matthew Cortland, Colleen Flanagan, Jules Good, Claudia Gordon, Mia Ives-Rublee, Ted Jackson, Emily Ladau, Andraéa LaVant, Vilissa Thompson, Zan Thornton, Gaylon Tootle, and Tiffany Yu.
As Republicans in state legislatures across the country continue their coordinated attack on voting access intent on disenfranchising minority communities, Fair Fight’s Disability Council will fight back against legislation like SB 7 that would disproportionately impact disabled voters. This harmful bill would burden disabled Texans by requiring anyone assisting a disabled voter with their mail ballot to fill out a new form attesting to the reason why the voter needed assistance, which in many cases is sensitive and private medical information that the government should not require people to have to disclose in order to vote. It also requires disabled voters applying for mail ballots due to disability to affirm their disability on the application.
Additionally, SB 7 would result in fewer polling places in areas where a higher percentage of the population has one or more disabilities, which is further exacerbated by the fact that the bill makes curbside voting, used by disabled voters, more difficult by requiring those who give “rides-to-the-polls” for three or more curbside voters to fill out new, unnecessary paperwork, creating liabilities for community organizers. Further, the legislation allows partisan poll watchers to film voters who require assistance at the polls if the watcher “reasonably believes” that the assistance is unlawful, forcing disabled people to defend themselves from harmful accusations and compromising their right to privacy. Partisan poll watchers would also be allowed to observe curbside voting. Moreover, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a wheelchair user himself, not only supports this legislation but marked it as a priority even though it unfairly and unjustly targets members of his own community.
“The right to vote is integral to a fair and open democracy and we cannot maintain our freedom without the power to independently choose our leaders,” said Dom Kelly, Founder of Fair Fight Action’s Disability Council. “Yet, as a result of SB 7, Texas voters could be forced to either share why they are disabled or be unjustly targeted to participate in democracy — and face the possibility of being filmed without their consent simply for using a necessary accommodation. In the state with the largest number of uninsured Americans in the country and where lawmakers have failed to expand Medicaid for over a decade, it’s unconscionable that disabled and chronically ill people would once again be put in such a vulnerable position. These proposals in SB 7 invade the privacy of disabled voters, forcing them to provide private and deeply personal medical information in order to be able to vote with assistance. Fair Fight Action’s Disability Council, composed of disabled activists and policy experts from across the country, calls on the Texas Legislature and Governor Greg Abbott to oppose SB 7 and protect their own constituents.”
Fair Fight Action’s Disability Council includes:
Founder, Fair Fight Action’s Disability Council
U.S. Representative Tony Coelho (D-CA)
Member of Congress, 1979-1989
Primary Sponsor of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
ADA 25 Advancing Leadership
Matthew Cortland, JD
Be A Hero
Disability Action For America
Founder and Consulting Lead
Disability Rights Attorney and Advocate
Vilissa Thompson, LMSW