Sami McGinnis remembers walking into a polling place and casting her vote for the first time.
“It was a wonderful feeling to have that freedom,” she said.
McGinnis, 67, whose vision is impaired, gave up that freedom eight years ago after her husband died. That’s when she first voted by absentee ballot. Having no family near her Mesa, Ariz., residence, she found it difficult arranging transportation — especially on Election Day.
She wishes it were possible for her to physically vote inside a polling place because she questions whether her absentee ballot is counted.
“It’s better than nothing,” she said, “but live my experience and tell me it’s better than nothing. It’s not the same.”
One in nine voting-age Americans is disabled, according to Census data. Of the 17 percent of voting-age Americans who are 65 years or older, at least 36 percent are disabled.
At a time when 37 states have considered photo ID legislation, some disabled and elderly Americans may face difficulty voting this November because they often don’t have a valid driver’s license. The result is that voter turnout among these groups likely will decrease, according to Rutgers University research.
“Voting is a big deal. It’s a big highlight of their years,” said Daniel Kohrman, a senior attorney for AARP in Washington, D.C.
“It’s really unfortunate, and indeed tragic, that this emphasis on restricting participation is presented in so many states,” Kohrman added.
Eighteen percent of Americans over 65 do not have a photo ID, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, a public policy group that opposed many of the voting rule changes nationally. The Census estimates at least 7 million seniors don’t have driver’s licenses.
Many people with disabilities also don’t have a driver’s license. Beyond physical disabilities, persons can have learning disabilities — dyslexia for example — or poor hand-eye coordination.