Summary of REV UP Debrief and Strategy Call
For those unable to participate on the 11/16 REV UP Debrief and Strategy call, below is a summary of the discussion.
- An audio recording of the call is available here.
- The CART transcript for the call is available here.
Thank you to everyone who engaged with us as part of the REV UP Campaign this election cycle. But our work is not over yet, which is why we are having this call.
From the beginning, our goal was to continue the REV UP Campaign beyond November, regardless of the outcome of the Presidential election, and really help to build strong state disability voting coalitions that can influence policy and have a role in developing programs and services that work at the state level.
In this election there were 35 million eligible voters with disabilities, and over 60 million if you count our families, which is about a quarter of the electorate. We have the numbers. We can influence election and policy outcomes. We believe it starts by organizing at the state and local level.
As the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill used to say, “all politics is local,” meaning a politician’s success is directly tied to the person’s ability to understand and influence the issues of their constituents. The GOTV and voter registration efforts among the disability community this year were better than ever before, but we can’t stop here. We must organize, we must continue to build for the future. AAPD wants to continue coordinating this effort, but we certainly can’t do it alone.
Before we get into the discussion about REV UP 2017 we’ll give a recap of our successes during this past election cycle so we can celebrate our victories and identify where we can continue to build on our efforts.
Accomplishments of the 2016 REV UP Campaign
We want to underscore that the success of the REV UP Campaign was only possible thanks to the tireless efforts of all who were involved at the national, state, and local levels. It truly was a collaborative effort.
Mobilizing the Grassroots Disability Community
- Engaging Disability Voting Rights Advocates – The REV UP Campaign maintains regular direct engagement with over 350 voting rights advocates across 27 states to provide information, resources, and updates. Many of these advocates are representatives from centers for independent living, protection and advocacy agencies, and other state/local disability organizations.
- Sign-On Letter to Candidates – The REV UP Campaign partnered with the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition to issue a sign-on letter for the faith community to encourage the presidential candidates to address disability issues.
- State Resources & Events – The REV UP Campaign regularly updates a webpage with information about events in states across the country. These events include voter registration and education events, debate watch parties, town halls, candidate forums, and more.
- REV UP Toolkit & Logos – The REV UP Campaign offers a customizable toolkit to help advocates at the state and local level collect and organize information and resources that are specific to their state. REV UP also offers a host of logos and graphics that are free for advocates to use and modify.
- Media Materials – The REV UP Campaign offers sample social media posts, press release templates, and graphics to aid state and local partners in their communication efforts.
- National Disability Voter Registration Week – The week, which occurred on July 11-15, 2016, was organized as a concerted effort to get more people with disabilities registered and educated about this year’s elections as well as to inform the media and candidates for public office about the influence of the disability vote. The REV UP Campaign received 37 official proclamations as well as a joint letter of support from former Senators Bob Dole and Tom Harkin.
- National Voter Registration Day – The REV UP Campaign joined the broader national effort on September 27th to make a final push to register voters before the state deadlines. The REV UP Campaign hosted a National Organizing Call on September 8th to help coordinate these efforts.
- Online Voter Registration Tool – Through a partnership with Rock The Vote, AAPD offers online voter registration via the REV UP website.
- Pledge to Vote – The REV UP Campaign hosts an online ‘pledge to vote’ form to encourage political participation.
- Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) Activities – The REV UP Campaign hosted a National Organizing Call on October 4th to provide more information about and encourage state and local partners to participate in GOTV activities to ensure people with disabilities are counted at the polls.
- REV UP Presidential Candidate Questionnaire – AAPD partnered with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) to create this questionnaire in order to gain more insight from the candidates on how they would address issues important to the disability community. We received responses from Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, and Donald Trump.
- 2016 Election Center – The REV UP Campaign curates a webpage dedicated to providing information and external links relating to the current election.
- Statistics & Data – The REV UP Campaign curates a webpage that provides data about the political participation of the disability community.
- Voter Resource Center – The REV UP Campaign hosts a webpage that compiles a host of resources on voter registration, voter education, casting a vote and access to the polls, and amplifying the power of the disability vote.
Success Stories from the States
Dolores Tejada from Community Resources for Independent Living
We started our campaign to get out the disability vote prior to the primaries. And we did a full GOTV campaign for the primaries and that went really, really well. We made over 2,000 calls. We collected over 200 vote pledges. And that was really successful for the primaries.
Leading up to the election for November, we duplicated the skills that we had already put into practice and it became slightly easier. However, we didn’t have as many resources, unfortunately. We were working with a bit of a smaller team. And some of the things that again we put into place that we thought were really useful was the vote pledges. For the vote pledges – we asked everyone to sign the vote pledge and used that as our opening instead of asking people if they were registered to vote, because we know that often times people push back against that question. We asked them if they would be willing to take a pledge to vote so that way if they said “oh, you know, I’m not registered to vote,” we can say: “Great! We have voter registration forms right here.” It ensures that we are able to collect information on that particular voter instead of just relying on the voter registration form and gave us an additional way to collect information. So that was one of the main things that we implemented.
Another thing that I want to highlight is that we worked closely with our county registrar of voters.
We were able to encourage them and work closely with them to have them bring out the accessible voting machines to different disability organizations, disability centered events, different agencies, and community spaces where people with disabilities would be, so that people with disabilities in this county could get firsthand experience prior to the election on how to use an accessible voting machines.
While I don’t have specific data on this, I felt like part of the barrier with voting in person for people with disabilities, which therefore is a barrier to voting in general, is not having familiarity with the technology that is available that is accessible. Or just having to hear about voting. That is something we highlighted. We have worked with our registrar of voters over the past couple years to get them to highlight the issues, but this election year was the first time that they really stepped up their game. They had a pretty consistent calendar that was full of events that they were going to — that we would recommend them to go to and promote, that had people with disabilities. So every single day they were reaching people with disabilities and training them on how to use the accessible voting machine, as well as doing voter registration. That was really exciting.
Lastly, I wanted to talk about the phone banks we held a couple days prior to and then the day of the election. We were able to utilize not only the information we gathered from the vote pledges but also our consumer database. We also were able to purchase a list, which was something that we were lucky enough to get funding for, from a data collection agency that targeted people with disabilities, so that we had contacts and people to call. When we did our phone bank, we were able to contact people who had already identified disability as a priority issue that they care about, and remind them to vote with their vote by mail ballot.
One of the things we did well with this campaign, because we worked in communities with people with various types of disabilities, was to make sure that anyone who wanted to get involved could get involved, and that there was space and opportunity for them to contribute in the best way that they could. One example of that is we have someone who has a speech disability, so they did not want to make phone calls. But we recruited her to send text messages and emails. And most importantly, she tracked who it was that we called and what their responses were, so that we could collect the data at the end of our phone banking to see how many people we reached. In simplest terms it was data entry, but the information that she was gathering and the method that she was able to develop to collect that data was really, really important. Ultimately, those are the numbers we used to show what effect our campaign had.
A quick lesson that I learned – there is absolutely space for the disability community, for people with disabilities, to do this type of work and do it efficiently and confidently. I had no doubt about that from the beginning. This just solidified that belief for me. And that it is really important that we do this work because we encountered so many people who were appreciative of what we were doing.
Chris Miller from Disability Rights New Jersey
Chris works with Disability Rights New Jersey (DRNJ). Primarily his job was to do voting outreach and presentations to voters with disabilities. He focused on day programs during this election.
The biggest turnout he had and the biggest event he did was a voting booth demonstration for blind and low vision young adults. They were so inspired by his presentation and they were also shown the assistive technology on the voting machine. They enjoyed voting privately and independently. Chris also distributed DRNJ’s voting guide, which has all of New Jersey’s policies on voting. They also have that guide in braille, large print, and digital formats.
Going forward next year he is going to focus on working with some of the psychiatric hospitals because there were problems this year. DRNJ received complaints on Election Day with some of the patients in those hospitals not being able to vote. There is also a governor’s race next year.
REV UP was well received in New Jersey, not just by people with disabilities but also the assembly men and Senators.
CJ Moit from South Dakota Advocacy Services
We collaborated with other agencies across the state. We are extremely rural, and getting out to these areas sometimes is quite a chore. We even have some frontier areas still. We did utilize and adopt the REV UP toolkit and worked with the agencies and the Secretary of State’s office to ensure that we had our state information correct. We were able to send it out via hard copy and digital media to others so that they could utilize it. We sent it mainly to organizations that work with individuals with disabilities so they could work with the people they serve to provide them with the ability to register to vote if they chose to.
We held voter registration booths at various events where people were going for trainings or for conversations so that we could get to those people who sometimes might not get out to other things. We also had a newsletter article, social media blasts, and we had the REV UP logo on everything we did.
We coordinated with a large event in October. In South Dakota the registration deadline was the 17th so we had a REV UP event and outdoor activity and enjoyed all sorts of different weather. It was a good event and successful despite the weather we did have. We were able to get publicity on a morning show, and that evening news cast. We collaborated with Ms. Wheelchair America, Dr. Cobble-Temple, who came out and was very helpful in getting that word out and speaking about how people with disabilities need to get out and get their voices heard.
We are moving forward with doing a voting accessibility survey through Survey Monkey so we can look at what we need for the next election – 2018 is when our governor race is – to ensure individuals with disabilities can get out and exercise their right to vote.
For more examples of how advocates organized at the state level visit the REV UP State Resources and Events page on AAPD’s website.
A Word from Bob Kafka – REV UP Texas
We created REV UP Texas where all the groups came together under, like Helena mentioned, the disability voting coalition; using REV UP and the logo as sort of the branding so that we would all be working in our individual ways, but REV UP Texas became the sort of organizing entity.
For this go-round what we accomplished was more outreach than we would have guessed. By being out there, the state League of Women Voters saw that we were there, put the REV UP information on their website, which then led to the fact that the disability community was now an active player in electoral politics. Again, that really helped spread the word about the disability community.
The other positive aspect that came about was because REV UP Texas had an identity. Jill Stein reached out to REV UP Texas and met with the disability community. Again, though she wasn’t really a major player in the election, she finally did fill out the AAPD NCIL REV UP questionnaire and gave some more visibility, because they webcasted through the green party mechanism, then there had been before the election. Our blind rehab center also held a press conference with the League of Women Voters and REV UP Texas was involved in it.
One of the things that we are planning for 2017 is to build on the structure, because while this Presidential campaign was extremely the focal point, our long range goal is to actually affect state elections from governors to state legislators as well as City Council or county commissioner.
Part of that strategy is to, very much like other interest groups, build REV UP as the place to go when talking about disability voting. We worked very closely with Disability Rights Texas, with our center association, with our state coalition of people with disabilities, as well as our mental health groups. We defined the disability vote as greater than just the person with the disability to include family, professionals, and other folks who have a self-interest in doing this.
Long ago when Becky Ogel worked for President Clinton and we talked about voting, she said that with campaigns, Democrat or Republican, they want lists. Well, we did something which I’ve always wondered. We asked for the list of people that have disabled plates and placards in our state. I won’t go into a long talk about it, but we found out that the list was public information. But only the phone numbers. However, what we didn’t realize was that you could take phone numbers and match it to the voter registration, voting list. And when we found out, for $137 we got 1.6 million phone numbers. Now, granted, we are not going to call all those people, but there are companies that basically match that. We found out that of that 1.6 million, 650,000 of those people voted. So we now have a hot list. We are going to be looking for resources to actually break that number down to state districts as well as City Council. And I am going to promote just to write a letter to your Department of Motor Vehicles and see if the list is public. Again, that list as well as the paratransit list we’ve gotten is also public information. All those people are interested in every issue that we are, and it gives us a way to build for the future.
What I’m excited about is how under AAPD having the coordination that we spend 2017 to continue branding REV UP Campaign so that when people talk about the disability vote, they can start looking to the REV UP campaign to start collecting data. Now, again, we have to be realistic about our resources and time, but every one of us in our states have a lot of organizations that are doing different things on voting. So what we’ve done is just collectively pull people together around the issue of voting. I think I’ll hold off with that until the general discussion. I’m personally excited in terms of the future.
And again, one thing that Zach and Helena didn’t mention, and I know in terms of trying to be totally nonpartisan, but you know, regardless, the disability issues had a lot of visibility in the Clinton campaign. Now, granted she didn’t win and Trump’s answers don’t give a lot of hope on the issues, but the bottom line is that disability had more visibility in this election than during the Obama, George W. Bush, even with Clinton. So I think many of us may be upset about the outcome, but I think the bottom line is that if we can start building, that the disability vote can be influential. I think the next Presidential election we should have as a goal – 50 REV UP campaigns – one in every state.
One other thing I forgot to mention. Yesterday morning, I got up, turned on the TV – Morning Joe and the governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, was there. He obviously is very close to the incoming administration, and basically he just predicted that so much of what now is being done on the federal level will be pushed down to the states. I don’t know if you all are aware of the statistics, but about 34 states have Republican governors. Two-thirds are controlled by the Republicans. And we’ve learned here in Texas that federal laws are great, but so much is done by the state legislatures. So that is why when Helena talks about focusing on all politics are local, it is not just a saying. With the potential of Medicaid block grants and with things like housing, transportation, and even some of the IL funding could be bumped down to the local level. I think we can really see that our energy and resources should be focused on our states and building for the future.
Ideas for REV UP 2017 and Beyond
In 2017 and beyond the REV UP Campaign aims to:
- Establish REV UP State Voting Coalitions, composed of state and local leaders representing the cross-disability community, to lead the effort to increase the political participation of people with disabilities across their state. Representatives from each REV UP State Voting Coalition will connect with one another via conference calls and other opportunities organized by AAPD to share resources, strategies, and ideas with one another.
- Advocate to protect and expand voting rights to ensure voters with disabilities are not disenfranchised.
- Work with protection and advocacy agencies to utilize funding from the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) for their voter engagement activities.
- Lobby Secretaries of State across the country to get disability status included in the demographic data collected as part of the voter file.
- Target a specific state or local election in 2017 with direct voter registration and Get-Out-The-Vote efforts to measure and demonstrate the disability community’s organizing impact.
- Build out the REV UP website to better share information about state resources and events.
- Host recurring conference calls (monthly or quarterly) to connect advocates across the country to share information and resources.
- Arrange in-person meetings at various national disability conferences to connect advocates across the country to share information and resources.
Those interested in getting involved with the REV UP Campaign should contact AAPD’s Director of Outreach, Zach Baldwin, at email@example.com.
My name is Warren Fried, I ran the Gary Johnson disabled pride coalition. It’s just nice to have everyone talk with open discourse right now because sadly, I have been threatened as a disabled American by a lot of people for what I have been doing, as far as running the coalition, being part of the Libertarian party and what not. So there has been a lot of hostility for me being in the middle ground towards both sides. That’s not doing anybody good. I also run a nonprofit as well where parents are freaking out, what is going to happen next with the next administration coming in? As you see we all have to work together. As much as I love my disabled community I have been ostracized by the Libertarian part. I think that’s important to know as well. Some of us for what we believe, were actually ostracized. I spoke to the people from the green party and they have had the same sort of situation. As the nation starts to divide more and more, we need to build more and more.
That’s a good point again. We are saying let’s come together across the disability voting coalitions. Even if there is not a consensus in the voting coalitions, that is okay too. I mean, it’s a way to have that conversation and figure out how to move forward on the state level. So we appreciate what you just mentioned.
You know, I just want to thank everybody, AAPD is committed to doing this, obviously. We are trying to do some fundraising in 2017 for this initiative. Basically this year was not funded. It was my time and obviously a lot of Zach’s time and everybody else around the country making it happen. We see our role at least moving forward as continuing to connect. We will keep our website updated. If we are fortunate enough to get some funding, it will just give us more capacity to do things. One of the things that Zach mentioned we were thinking of was getting involved in one of the gubernatorial elections. We thought New Jersey. It is close to DC, we can get there easily and have something, some tangible results that we think we can use moving forward both from a fundraising standpoint and from a political standpoint. But again, I just want everybody to know our commitment is here. It is here regardless whether we get funding or not. The funding will just give us the capacity to do more. But we still love to hear from other folks in terms of their ideas.
One other thing I would just throw out – I was thinking as we move forward that maybe we can put together an ad hoc working group who would want to help us on a more regular basis to see that these ideas come to fruition. What we had working up to the election, we had Bob and Charlie Carr from Massachusetts and Janine Bertram from out in Seattle, primarily getting on the phone on a monthly basis. Again, trying to launch the campaign. I think we all would love to have more partners on the ground help us really continue to brand this and continue to develop it. That’s just an idea. I guess if some folks are interested in pursuing that, you can contact Zach. We can go from there.
I joined the call late. So I don’t know if you covered this or not. But I think we got some momentum going with the voters registration week last year, and I would think that’s a good platform to continue. The only thing I would urge is that we set that perhaps three months in advance this time so we’ve got plenty of time to gather proclamations in support for it. And engineer activities around that week on the local level to hype it, press for it, and of course to ultimately register more people with disabilities to vote. I don’t know if you covered that yet or not. I would urge us to carry that forward to every year and do it next year as well.
This is Zach. Thank you for bringing that up. I did mention the week as one of our accomplishments, but I didn’t mention that we are planning to do it again and I hope we can establish it as an annual occurrence, Even if it’s in an off election. I was listening to someone talk about the elections the other day and they said there is no off election year – it’s still incredibly important to get folks engaged and registered every year. Especially if you can get someone engaged in the quote-unquote off year, they are more likely to be engaged when the Presidentials come around.
We’re thinking of doing the week again around the same time period, middle of July, and having some sort of connection with the ADA anniversary. I’m open to changing the dates if folks have other feedback on that specifically.
This is Janine Bertram with the disability rights center in Seattle. I think many of us have talked to people since November 8th election. I have heard a lot of people being very discouraged, so I appreciated hearing from Bob about some of the successes they had in Texas. I would love to see any kind of training or templates about what sort of on the ground voter organizing has happened in very conservative states where people have been successful. I also wanted to mention that we are gearing up for the road to freedom bus tour to do REV UP presentations too. We may be able to get people doing REV UP organizing some support and sending the bus in.
Hi, this is Dominick Evans. I just was wondering, are there any more and further efforts to get out the vote to communes that are more marginalized, like disabled people who are LGBT or people of color? And I’m interested in finding out how I can help with that in any way.
This is Charlie from Massachusetts. I want to emphasize that the work that we do is all about coalition building. And no one group can do it by themselves. I think that we talk a lot now about intersectionality and marginalized groups coming together. If there’s one common denominator that we have, it certainly is voting. It is a power, it’s a tool, it’s something that we can all come together on.
I think regardless of what oppressed group you come from, coming together in a coalition is what has been successful in Texas, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and many other states through REV UP. I would just hope that we use that model going forward, that we pull in as many people from different groups. But also the bread and butter folks. We need to have the P & A group at the table. We need to have the DV group at the table, disability organizations at the table. We need some basics. Beyond that it’s a wonderful way to build a powerful coalition in every state and look down ballot. Look at local elections, statewide elections. We need to get our folks engaged, involved, and running for office. And I have never in all my years felt like we are so close to making a difference. And I believe that in this most recent election, I know the numbers aren’t in, but I think our voting numbers as a bloc were better than 2012. I’m encouraged and I hope that we all continue working through coalitions to broaden and strengthen our community.
I want to thank everyone for their efforts with the REV UP campaign. I think it’s a great idea. Here in Louisiana, I have not noticed any such campaign. We have some efforts that are made from our advocacy centers that are based on trying to get the disability vote out. They do some good things, you know. We have some website that they give information. But as a person from Louisiana who would really like to work on this, I guess what I would be asking for — I’ve heard a lot of good ideas from the different places in the United States and represented different demographics and different types of policies. I guess what I’m looking for actually is a toolkit. If I wanted to start a REV UP campaign in Louisiana, I haven’t heard yet — of course, I have technical difficulties and I can’t hear you really well and I can’t hear really well to begin with, but where would I go to get — I’m calling it that, a toolkit that will help me in Louisiana to start a REV UP campaign. Where would I go, who would I talk to? What would my sources be? That’s my biggest question being part of this call. I want to say I would be anxious to see the data and the numbers on the disability vote and it is very exciting to hear that this time you think it’s bigger than it has ever been. But folks, no matter how much you rep or how much you voted, we didn’t get the results we wanted. I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone on this call that it is great to have a REV UP campaign and great to be vigilant about making sure that people with disabilities vote, but we are going to have to be really vigilant now about what is going to happen to those of us who have disabilities. I commend you for going forward and for making sure that people with disabilities are going to vote more than ever, but we can’t forget that we have to be very vigilant about what is going to occur in this add next administration.
Two points: I would like to work on a REV UP campaign in my state. I need help and what I’m calling a toolkit. Secondly, let’s build coalitions to make sure that we are vigilant. I’m just kind of not into Kumbaya right now. So I would like to have anyone who thinks you can help me to get a REV UP campaign in my state, any kind of tools or adviser any way you can go, I — or advice or anyway you can go, I would be more than willing to go for my state.
Zach, this is Bob. One of the things — correct me, Charlie, if I’m wrong — I think Texas and Massachusetts who were the early REV UP organizations, I think we had talked with Helena and Zach that we would actually come up with some of the steps to start a REV UP. I don’t know want to commit Zach or Charlie to anything, but yeah, I totally agree, I think that’s one of the important things that we don’t want to, you know, usurp stuff that may be going on, like Helena said it’s organic. But yeah, it would be good, I think, if we can talk about some of the steps that both we took in Texas and Massachusetts and adding some of the other stuff and the other coalition partners. Then have maybe a one-page, this is some of the steps, but it is not this way or no way. You can use it as a model and then build from it. So I’ll commit to helping in terms of developing that one-pager.
Bob, I would be happy to help. Also just to mention on the call that the central location for REV UP is at the AAPD website. So if you go there, you’ll see a lot of information about REV UP and what it does. Its toolkit. There is all kinds of things. But I think that’s a point well taken. We can collaborate on putting together a quick one-pager that kind of chronicles the steps you need to take to get a coalition going and off the ground.
I’m a special education and disability lawyer and I have adult sons with autism. I’m 59 and have been doing electoral politics since before I could vote. This outcome is the worst disaster that I have seen in my lifetime. I think for a considerable period before. I have a lot to say about the nonpartisan approach to the disabilities vote and where I think that is not going to get us. I put together a website which is disabilitiesadvocates2016.com. Disabilityadvocates2016.com, the name will change, and also the Facebook page of disability advocate resources. There is a lot getting the folks to vote, but we need to get better information on where people even interest are on voting. We go beyond what candidates say when they are seeking votes. It tries to go beyond platforms and look at actual records. You know, Trump had a blank slate. He was incredibly terrifying before. And that has been clear for a while. I think, I realize that a lot of people work for 501(c)(3)s. I’m an attorney in private practice losing money most years but it gives me freedom. You want to look at this and point it out to people, I think we are in very dangerous spot and I have been doing state advocacy in California for many years. It is very hard to do this. We suddenly have this to do list of take back the Democratic Party and work on the state level and work at the federal level and monitor this. Meanwhile everyone is much more frightened about their personal and family futures. I hope some of you will contact me and some of you will want to work on advocacy that is not nonpartisan, whatever the stakes. I’m looking at acts and things, too. I think we need to move in those directions.
I want to bring bit back to Dominick’s point on intersectionality. In terms of goals that we need to be looking at for the disability community, I think it is really important that we are connecting with, I know you’re talking about disabilities kind of connects all these groups. It’s something that crosses racial boundaries, crosses gender, it crosses sexuality. I think it is important to keep in mind that we need to be working on some of those goals.
The things that I’m thinking that are particularly intersectional goals, I know right now with the fact that it is now going to be a Republican Congress, the possibility of a voting rights amendment act just got a little bit harder, but that is something that I know has been a priority for the election protection coalition, which definitely looks at racial voter suppression a lot.
Also another, something that we have discussed at NCIL in terms of connecting the race and disability vote is the fact that right now the election protection coalition does not collect statistics on disabilities unless it is explicitly mentioned whenever people call into their hot lines. So their data has a gap whenever we are talking, one of our people call in and they are asked for demographic information when they are having a problem with the polls. There are only, they only collect that data if someone specifically mentions their disability. So that is something that I think is an intersectional goal that we can strengthen working on is try to work on the election protection coalition so it is — so if we are talking race and disability, these issues, in terms of especially voter suppression, they are definitely tied together, the stripping of the Voting Rights Act definitely affected people with disabilities and also people of color and people in poverty due to the difficulty of getting a voter ID.
So I just wanted to kind of bring it back to Dominick’s point and make sure it’s recognized that we need to have some concrete goals in terms of working on connecting disability to these demographics and making sure that we recognize that these demographics are part of the disability community and we are going to focus on addressing these goals.
Hi, I’m Deborah Delgado with disability rights Pennsylvania. I worked here now for 23 years and I’m really encouraged by the number of protection and advocacy organizations who are part of the discussion. I think it’s really important. And helpful to hear.
In Pennsylvania, Disability Rights Pennsylvania staffed our own election day hot line. We had it open from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. and when we got our phones set up for that the day before, we already had a number of messages on our hot line. Some of the trends that we noticed were people calling about getting a ride to the polls. We had a lot of calls around that.
Pennsylvania was one of the states that carpool vote.com was working in and I had worked with them to set up parameters for volunteers who were going to be driving, to be able to document that they had an accessible vehicle. And another trend that we saw on the hot line calls was a number of voters who were blind who either had machines that didn’t work properly or poll workers who didn’t know how to set up those machines.
And in addition to the Help America Vote Act funding that we have, we have a wonderful opportunity in Pennsylvania, we are in the fourth year of some funding through our developmental disabilities council, for a grant on voting rights and civic engagement for people with disabilities. As part of that, I have been running our disability voting coalition. And we have an ever-growing Advisory Committee that has a lot of input into what we are doing from here forward.
I would also suggest that AAPD that if you are going to be in New Jersey in 2017, maybe you can be in Pennsylvania in 2018 for our gubernatorial election. I would definitely like to participate in any ad hoc work we are doing from here forward. Just that one final issue, it isn’t enough to get people registered. You have to be able to help them get to the polls. If you can come up with some strategies around how to really organize that, that would make a huge difference on election day. Thank you.
This is Denise Vargas from New York. And I just want to say again thank you for organizing this call. Also one of the things that we are going to be focusing on at the Viscardi Center, REV UP is about educating and voting. We want to focus on the education part. I don’t think a lot of people realize that your local government is so important. We always only think about our primaries and our presidency, but the local government, those are the people who are going to take it to the White House, essentially. So we really would like to start focusing on that, and I was wondering if AAPD has any plans on doing anything like that.
Well, you know, I think our discussion around having these state disability voting coalitions is for that very purpose. We are saying state, but we mean basically all levels of government, be it local — so your city, county, state, etc. So we again, when we use that term of a voting coalition, it is used broadly. We have an impact on the local level as well. I think we agree with you that it is important. And that’s why again we think it is really important to try to ensure that as many states as possible start to build these strong voting coalitions.
This is Katherine Perez. And I represent very new – only a few months – new organization called the National Coalition of Latinx with Disabilities. Thank you for having me on the call and all the great work that everyone has done. One small role that we played in this at the very end of the election once we organized was to join the CripTheVote hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. Our group works towards an intersectional approach. Thank you to everyone who brought up intersectionality and disability. One role we played was trying to tweeting out or on Facebook in Spanish to engage people who are Spanish speakers. We think that this work is important in bringing in people who maybe don’t identify as disabled but definitely are part of our community. Thank you.
Thank you. Again it seems like maybe this idea of putting together the ad hoc group has some resonance. If that’s the case we certainly want to make sure via Katherine or Sarah or Dominick, that you are part of these discussions and that our outreach is as broad as it possibly can be. We welcome all of your participation as we figure out the next steps.
Before the next person comments, I do just want to give a shout-out to the folks at CripTheVote and recognize all the great work they contributed to the election season this year in fostering the online discussion, especially on Twitter and the numerous Twitter chats they hosted to engage people on that level. I don’t know if Alice, Greg, or Andrew are on the call today, but I wanted to publicly say thank you and recognize them for helping move the discussion this year.
Well, you know, most of you know we put out a video for the Feel The Power March. If you’re interested, of our march — we did a really good job. It’s on our Facebook page, Feel The Power March. I’m thinking if the REV UP coalition ever wanted to do a professional video for any reason, this guy does great work. He did it for nothing. And thank you all for your support.
This is Shannon from Colorado, I’m with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. For us, Colorado is a mail-in ballot state. That’s why we, just to go back to what one of the other people had commented, also have automatic registration with the Department of Motor Vehicles. So we have a lot of things in place to ensure voter registration. We personally did a lot of education. We did videos, explaining some of the things that were pertinent to the disabilities community. We actually created our own cohort and coalition. So I think we got a lot of the REV part. I think part of it was, I would like to see some data or discussion around how do you actually move people to vote, especially again when you are talking about a mail-in state. When people are already, it’s right at their front door. How do you move them to actually put it in a mailbox or drop it at the local polling place, things like that? When things are already set up so that you are registered, you get the ballot. How do you get them to actually fill it out?
Great, yeah, thank you for sharing that. I think that’s something we just barely scratched the surface on this year with our GOTV call, and trying to have some folks doing that work share their thoughts. I completely agree with you, that’s an area where we can become more sophisticated and learn from other movements who are already doing it well. I hope that’s something we can educate ourselves on more so we can better provide that information and resources by the time we get to the midterms.
You know, one of the things that we consulted with this guy that did political organizing just generic for the Democratic Party, he’s retired now. So he helped us, and most of it was bipartisan. But he told me something that stuck. He said it is not so much that people vote. He said that’s important. But what candidates really care about is that if I take a good position on disabilities, will you or your family members actually vote for me because of that? Or are you going to vote differently because you may have Latino issues? Or LGBT or African-American?
I think as we build our coalitions, we also have to keep challenging the candidates to do more than just a website, but mention our issues because I do believe that they can get the disability vote. But I’m not sure we have done an awful big job of telling the candidates that we actually will vote for you if you take that position because I think generally they focus on other interest groups because they think those folks will vote if they shape their issue around it. So I think as we build, and somebody mentioned it before. You know, the education piece is so, so critical. Again this may be my own personal bias, but in terms of some of the things that we can now see coming back to the state level and we may be able to coalesce on things in our own state. So I think that … ultimately you have to start somewhere. And building REV UP in every state would be the way to really start seeing if we can be as powerful as our numbers show that we should be.
But there is also a lot to be done in terms of communicating the information that organization collect. The emails I was getting would say things like the parties are polarized on education, but everybody is for special education. Actually no one is for special education but one party is worse than the other. I think that there’s a lot of — I think an indiscriminate poll where you say everybody vote has its problems, but the false equivalence in giving in to people’s views of yeah, probably pretty much I can vote the way my family did or my neighbors are because the candidates are similar on disability issues. I think that is even worse and I think that happened.
It is approaching 5. Bob, something you said, “Hopefully we can get good data.” You mentioned earlier, I think this election is historic, especially when you look at the Clinton campaign in terms of the outreach to our community, what was in the platform, what happened at the convention. The stump speech about an inclusive economy that was directed at people with disabilities in Florida. It will be interesting to see if there’s data to have a correlation, did a large number of people with disabilities vote for her because of those policies? And again, what an overt campaign she had in terms of reaching out to people with disabilities and actually having a lot of people with disabilities behind the scenes very active in her campaign around policy.
This is Sarah from NCIL. One thing that is frustrating that should be brought up, we are not going to have great data this year. A lot of people may be familiar with the Kruse, Schur report in 2012 which is where we get the statistics, 30 percent of polling places or 30 percent of people with disabilities had problems with casting a vote in 2012. They were denied funding by NIDILRR this year which was a shock for them. We won’t have those statistics because they were denied funding. Other polling centers, places like Pew Research Center said to us when we asked them to collect data, that they were not going to collect data on disability. They didn’t have a big enough sample size. One thing that should be a goal, and something we should be working on is figuring out how we can convince polling centers to include disabilities as a demographic and also to improve funding to places like Rutgers University and Lisa and Doug to make sure that their work is funded in the future so we can have the data. Without it, how can we see what progress is being made? We are not going to have the longitudinal studies. I know that’s something that is a little bit outside of the scope of REV UP since it is not directly related to the disability voting elector rate, but it’s something that is very important because it gives us the ability to study that electorate and we are not getting that right now.
Thank you. I do think it’s part of REV UP. I think our focus here is very broad in scope. I think that’s important because I think, again, without the data moving forward it is not going to have the impact, especially the impact on the folks running for office. So I do think that’s important and I appreciate you bringing that up.
I know we already approached 5:00 o’clock, so I think we need to wrap it up. I again want to thank everybody for being on this call. It was a really great, robust conversation. It was great to see great geographic dispersion and all the work being done across the country. I’m certainly energized and excited by this call. We need to regroup internally and reach out to some of the closest partners we have been working with. We will definitely be back in touch soon with I think somewhat of a strategy moving forward. Again, anybody who would like to work with us, please reach out to Zach because we want this umbrella to be as big as possible. So again, thanks, everybody. I think great call, great effort. I’m excited about building this as we move forward. Bye-bye!