People with disabilities and voting in Utah: Know your rights!
Sheri Newton, Disability Law Center
History has been unkind to individuals and groups, denying them the opportunity to vote based on gender, race, disability, etc. In fact, some states still have statutes that allow voting discrimination on the basis of disability.
In Utah, a voter’s right to cast a ballot cannot be challenged based on disability or mental competency. You have the right to vote if you are citizen of the United States and 18 years old. Only a judge can take this right away.
That said, those who are supporting people with disabilities with other decision making will sometimes prevent them from voting. Studies have found that this happens in some care facilities. Through the DLC’s education and outreach activities, family members have been observed obstructing the individual with a disability from registering to vote, saying, “They don't understand enough to vote.”
These organizations or family members often retain the individual’s identification. Therefore, even when a potential voter independently registers to vote, they may not be able to cast a vote without their proof of ID.
And identification requirements themselves can be difficult for some individuals with disabilities to manage. Due to different living circumstances, money, or lack of financial independence, they may not have the types of records or ID others possess. Utah’s voting website offers this list of accepted voter ID.
Another barrier is access to polling places. Each county clerk has the flexibility to determine how many vote centers and drop boxes they will offer and where they will be located. In some Utah counties, that can mean a voter must trek a round trip of over 100 miles if there is a problem with the ballot, the post office is not able to deliver the returned ballot in time or the voter needs to use an accessible voting device. Many individuals do not have the time or means to overcome these challenges.
Additional voting rights in Utah:
- You have the right to vote privately and independently. In Utah, where we vote by mail, that means that if a person cannot read or mark a printed ballot independently, an alternative method of voting must be provided.
- You have the right to an accessible ballot. If you cannot complete the ballot mailed to you without someone helping you, you can request a ballot in a format that meets your needs.
- You can have a person of your choice help you vote. You can’t get help from your boss, union representative or a candidate.
- If you vote in-person, you can always ask a poll worker for help with voting.
- In Utah, you have the right to vote, even if you have a criminal record. A person convicted of a crime and serving time in jail or prison cannot vote while they are incarcerated. Once released, they can register and vote.
This information is brought to you by the Disability Law Center, a private, non-profit organization whose mission is to enforce and strengthen laws that protect the opportunities, choices, and legal rights of Utahns with disabilities. Their voting program encourages individuals with disabilities to engage in the electoral process and their advocateswe work with election officials to improve voting accessibility. More information is available on the DLC’s website. To contact the Disability Law Center with voting questions or help with a voting problem e-mail: email@example.com or call (800) 662-9080.
October 23rd: Voter Registration Deadline (No matter what your county clerk’s website states.)
October 21th: Contact your county clerk if you are registered, but have not received your ballot.
October 20-30 and Nov 2nd: Many counties are offering early voting, a chance to vote on an accessible device, get help with a ballot problem, or register to vote in-person. Contact your county clerk to find out what’s happening where you live.
November 2nd: Your mail-in ballot must be post-marked by this date. Most counties also have ballot drop boxes where you can leave your ballot until 8:00 PM on Election Day.
November 3rd: Election Day