Casting an informed vote: how to learn about a candidate's position on disability issues

Posted by Reeve Foundation Staff in Daily Dose on January 23, 2020 # Advocacy and Policy

VoteBy guest author Stephanie Woodward

As things heat up for the 2020 election, it is important to know what the candidates’ positions are on issues that matter most to you! As individuals, we all have political issues that matter to us, from taxes to gun control to environmental issues. However, as people with disabilities, there are some political issues that are disability-specific and can significantly impact our lives, so it is important to know where the candidates are on these issues.

One way to learn about a candidate’s position on disability policies is to check their website to see if they have a disability platform. Many of the candidates for the 2020 Presidential election have disability platforms and you can read about them in my previous blog, "The disability vote: why does it matter?"

However, reading a candidate’s disability platform is only the beginning of learning about their positions on disability issues. There are many more ways to learn about a candidate and decide if a certain candidate is right for you.

The first thing I like to do is check to see if the candidates have answered any disability-specific questionnaires. The Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire created a great 2020 Presidential Primary Candidate Survey on Disability and invited all of the candidates to answer the survey in a written form as well as responding to verbal questions in a video. The Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire published all the responses that they received and noted the candidates who did not participate. By reviewing the candidate’s answers and videos, you are able to learn more about which candidates took the time to really learn about the Disability Community and which candidates did not even take the time to respond to questions about our issues.

After checking the responses to questionnaires, I move on to checking voting records. Now, this is not possible for all candidates because not all candidates have held positions in public offices before, but for any candidate that has been in a public office, you can review their voting records on disability issues. For example, in this race, we have had several members of the House of Representatives and the Senate who have run for President, as well as the current President who is running for a second term. It is easy to research how each of these candidates has voted on bills relating to the Disability Community, or in the case of the President, to see if he signed a bill into law or vetoed it. If a bill has not been voted on yet, we can see if a member of Congress has sponsored the bill. Simply look up the bill number, then go over to Congress.gov and type in the bill number. Once you click on the bill, you can click on the “cosponsor” tab to see a list of all the cosponsors of the bill. If the bill has gone to the floor for a vote, you can go to the “Actions” tab to see how each member voted on the bill.

If you have a question or a concern about an issue that the candidate has not addressed in a platform, questionnaire, or in their voting record, then don’t hesitate to reach out to their campaign. In fact, engaging with campaigns directly is a great way to be involved in the political process and to get the attention of the candidates! You can email your personal story or questions to a campaign, or you can reach out on social media, or you can go to an in-person event to talk to a candidate. This does not just apply to presidential candidates, but to all candidates! This can work especially well for local politics because candidates are even more accessible to you when they live and work in your geographical area. For example, if there is a seat open for the House of Representatives in your district, be sure to reach out to the candidates about your issues! That local election makes a difference on a national level!

Remember, it’s not only important for you to learn about the candidates’ positions on disability issues – it’s also important for candidates to learn from people with disabilities about what their positions should be!

Stephanie Woodward is an attorney who is passionate about seeking justice for marginalized communities - and has an arrest record to show for it. As a proud disabled woman and civil rights activist, Stephanie is committed to making the law work for all oppressed people. She recently launched her new website Disability Details where she talks about disability rights, access, and life.