Difficulties with access to voting reported by disabled Americans fell significantly between 2012 and 2020, according to research published Wednesday by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
The EAC report found about 1 in 9 disabled respondents reported voting difficulties in 2020, compared to more than a quarter of non-disabled Americans.
The gap between disabled and non-disabled voters who experienced voting problems also narrowed significantly, at 11.4 percent versus 6.4 percent in 2020 compared to 26.1 percent versus 7.4 percent in 2012.
“The positive thing is more Americans were able to vote this year without difficulties than we’ve seen in the past, but it also shows we’ve still got work to do,” EAC Chairman Ben Hovland told The Hill.
The report also found a drop in disabled people voting in-person experiencing difficulties. In 2012, 30 percent reported problems in in-person voting compared to 18 percent in 2021.
“That is definitely progress,” co-researcher Lisa Schur, co-director of the Program for Disability Research at Rutgers University's School of Management and Labor Relations, told The Hill. “That being said, 1 in 9 people is still reporting difficulty voting, so there’s work that needs to be done.”
“We won’t know until the census data come out but we’re projecting about 19 million people with disabilities voted last year,” added co-author Douglas Kruse, the co-director of the program. “That means the 1 in 9 ... that translates into 2 million people.”
Schur noted that despite the generally positive news in the report, it also indicated areas for improvement.
“The people who experience the most difficulty are people with visual impairments and cognitive impairments, so there’s clearly work that needs to be done,” she noted.
The coronavirus pandemic led to a broad increase in available voting options beyond Election Day in-person voting, which Kruse said likely drove turnout among disabled voters.
About 75 percent of disabled voters used either a mail-in ballot or voted early in-person in 2020, which is both an increase from 2012 and a higher percentage than that of non-disabled voters who used the same options.
“More voting options is a good thing, given the wide range of disabilities out there, having more options for how people can cast a ballot maximizes the chance people will find an option that works well for them,” he told The Hill.
“We saw an expansion of voting options this last year ... I’m pretty sure that really helped the turnout particularly of people with disabilities this last year,” Kruse said.