There is less than three months left before the Presidential Election on November 2.
And the two leading candidates—George W. Bush and John Kerry—are actively trying to get voters to connect with their campaigns, in an attempt to woo those who may be undecided about who will lead the country best.
The 2004 election is expected to be one of the tightest elections in U.S. history. With an estimated 40 million voting-age people with disabilities in America, it’s logical that both camps are trying to make the connection by reaching out to a group with such impressive numbers.
Despite that astonishingly high number, people with disabilities historically have had low voter turnout and have failed to become involved in issues that affect them most. The Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) estimates that only half of the people with disabilities that are eligible to vote, are registered.
Additionally, despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, there are still polling places that are inaccessible to people with disabilities. However, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 seeks to have at least one accessible polling booth in each location by January 2005.Currently, only one, Rhode Island, of the 50 states is completely accessible.
“We just want people to get out and vote,” said Angela Kapsakin, coordinator of the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of People with Disabilities’ Disability Rights Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering people with disabilities about election related issues.
“If people with disabilities voted at the same rate as people without disabilities in the 2000 election, 4 million more votes would have been cast.”
That number is particularly significant given that the last election was decided by a mere 537 votes.
Registering to Vote
Deadlines to register to vote in the November general election varies widely from state to state, but in most states people can register to vote anywhere from the beginning to the end of October, 2004. For a complete list of registration deadlines by state you may visit the League of Women Voters website at www.lwv.org/voter/register.cfm?pid=deadlines.
One can also register to vote absentee in each state by visiting the Federal Voting Assistance Program www.fvap.gov and clicking on the state link to be directed to your state.
Issues and Candidates
Because of space considerations, Audacity Magazine will break down some of the major issues and where the candidates stand on these issues in an attempt to educate readers. The following are abridged versions taken from internet sources and material provided to Audacity Magazine from the campaigns themselves.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 70 percent of people in the United States are unemployed or underemployed.
The Kerry/Edwards platform for people with disabilities states, in part:
“He will reinstate the Executive Order by President Clinton to hire 100,000 qualified individuals with disabilities as federal employees over five years. The federal government has massive spending powers that can and should be used to promote the employment of individuals with disabilities. In a Kerry Administration, this will occur: The Office of Federal Contracts and Compliance Programs at the Department of Labor will be held accountable in ensuring that federal contractors are not just reaching out to people with disabilities, but hiring them as well.”
The Bush/Cheney administration says that it will continue working to create more opportunities for people with disabilities by continuing to increase funding of the New Freedom Initiative—a sweeping measure passed more than three years ago designed to increase access to a variety of community services, including employment, for people with disabilities.
They state in part:
“In FY [fiscal year] 2002, President Bush secured $20 million for a fund to help people with disabilities purchase technology needed to work from home. Twenty states have been using these funds to expand employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.”
Both of the candidates realize the importance of having accessible transportation.
The Bush campaign touts its record of trying to ensure people with disabilities have access to transportation.
“President Bush issued an Executive Order in February 2004 to enhance access to transportation to improve mobility, employment opportunities, and access to community services for people who are transportation-disadvantaged,” his campaign states.
“The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education launched “United We Ride,” a five-part initiative to assist states and communities in coordinating transportation. This initiative will work to break down the barriers between programs and set the stage for local partnerships that generate common-sense solutions and quality performance for everyone who needs transportation.”
The Kerry campaign says:
“As President, John Kerry will work to ensure that the Department of Transportation funds start up grants, particularly in rural areas, to encourage communities to exceed their obligations under the ADA. He will also direct the Secretary of Transportation to convene a special advisory committee of paratransit services to explore other mechanisms for improving consumers’ access to services. The committee will include strong representation from the disability community.”
Affordable/Accessible Housing remain an issue for people with disabilities in the U.S.
John Kerry addresses this issue, in part, in the following way:
“We can no longer afford to build new housing which is not flexible enough to meet the existing and changing needs of most households. We need to work towards the goal of having all new housing built in the United States incorporate this philosophy. John Kerry would support tax credits for builders and/or demonstration project funding for non-profit organizations to help increase the stock of universal design housing.”
Bush counters with:
HUD has trained housing professionals under the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST (Fair Housing Instruction, Resources, Support and Technical Guidance) initiative to help architects and builders design and construct apartments and condominiums accessible to people with disabilities. From January 2003 to the present, the program has held 51 training sessions in 28 states; trained over 2,806 individuals nationwide; responded to over 3,361 inquiries for technical guidance; and received over 33,000 distinct web hits. The program is highly successful, surpassing attendance goals at the training sessions by 292 percent.”
To learn more about these and other election related issues visit the resource links located on the right side of this screen.
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