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The Importance of Down Ballot Elections for Disability Rights

Washington, Oct. 21 – While the presidential election has taken up much of the news cycle, attention also is shifting to who will control the Senate. As such, RespectAbility has reached out to candidates running for Senate as well as Governor in the 2016 elections with the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire  for Senate and Gubernatorial Candidates for people with disabilities.

Twenty-six candidates for Senate, as well as 11 candidates for governor, from both sides of the aisle(22 Democrats, 14 Republicans, 1 Green Party) have responded so far, showing that disability rights is a nonpartisan issue. An additional nine candidates responded that they are not completing any questionnaires during this campaign season. The responses also are geographically-diverse, coming from states all around the country, as politicians are paying more and more attention to the disability community.

A recently released Pew poll shows that voters with disabilities span the political and demographic spectrum and can determine who wins the elections.

According to a new report from Rutgers University, 35.4 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote in the November 2016 elections, representing close to one-sixth of the total electorate. That’s an increase of nearly 11 percent since 2008.

Key Senate race outcomes could be changed by outreach to the disability community, including the races in Maryland, North Carolina and Wisconsin, where at least one candidate in the race has enacted legislation that has impacted people with disabilities.

Since disability does not discriminate, voters with disabilities are every race, age, ethnic group, religion and gender. As the presidential election has become polarized around racial and ethnic lines, disability issues can create the difference between winning and losing.

This is the first time down-ballot candidates have been asked to complete a questionnaire about disability-related issues on such a wide scale. The answers to these questionnaires are being posted on The RespectAbility Report and being used for individualized state voter guides.

Below are links to detailed answers to the questionnaire. RespectAbility and The RespectAbility Report are nonpartisan and do not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.

State Gubernatorial Candidate View Full Answers
Delaware Colin Bonini (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteBonini
Delaware John Carney (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteCarney
Missouri Chris Koster (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteKoster
Montana Steve Bullock (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteBullock
Montana Greg Gianforte (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteGianforte
New Hampshire
(lost primary)
Derek Dextraze (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteDextraze
Oregon Bud Pierce (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVotePierce
Utah Mike Weinholtz (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteWeinholtz
Vermont Sue Minter (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteMinter
Vermont Phil Scott (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteScott
Washington Bill Bryant (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteBryant
State Senate Candidate View Full Answers
Alabama Ron Crumpton (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteCrumpton
California Kamala Harris (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteHarris
California Loretta Sanchez (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteSanchez
Florida (lost primary) Dwight Young (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteYoung
Hawaii John Carroll (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteCarroll
Illinois Tammy Duckworth (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteDuckworth
Illinois Mark Kirk (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteKirk
Kansas Patrick Wiesner (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteWiesner
Louisiana Foster Campell (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteCampbell
Louisiana Caroline Fayard (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteFayard
Louisiana Abhay Patel (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVotePatel
Maryland Kathy Szeliga (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteSzeliga
Maryland Chris Van Hollen (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteVanHollen
Missouri Jason Kander (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteKander
Nevada Joe Heck (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteHeck
Nevada Catherine Cortez Masto (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteMasto
New Hampshire Kelly Ayotte (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteAyotte
New Hampshire Maggie Hassan (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteHassan
North Carolina Richard Burr (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteBurr
North Carolina Deborah Ross (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteRoss
Ohio Joe DeMare (Green) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteDeMare
Oregon Mark Callahan (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteCallahan
Pennsylvania Katie McGinty (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteMcGinty
South Dakota Jay Williams (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteWilliams
Vermont Patrick Leahy (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteLeahy
Wisconsin Russ Feingold (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteFeingold

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the Vice President, Communications, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible disability - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. From entertainment professionals to presidential campaigns, journalists to philanthropists, she conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible. Behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, Appelbaum engages decision makers and creatives to improve the quality and number of authentic, diverse and inclusive presentations of people with disabilities on TV and film so audiences can see people with disabilities as vital contributors in America and around the world. She and her team have consulted on projects with Amazon, Disney/ABC Television, NBCUniversal, Netflix, and The Walt Disney Studios, among others. Appelbaum also enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by nurturing and connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, which was created to help entertainment professionals to be as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible, and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working behind the camera. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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