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The Roadmap to Pennsylvania’s lost electorate Disability Voting Coalition of Pennsylvania

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Presentation on theme: "The Roadmap to Pennsylvania’s lost electorate Disability Voting Coalition of Pennsylvania"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Roadmap to Pennsylvania’s lost electorate Disability Voting Coalition of Pennsylvania

2 The National Voter Registration Act Requires that voter registration services be made more readily available to all citizens; The “motor voter law” designates the Bureau of Motor Vehicles as a voter registration agency. Congress explicitly acknowledged that citizens who are older, poorer or who have disabilities are less likely to own automobiles, and so requires the states to also designate agencies that provide public assistance, aging and disability services.

3 The National Voter Registration Act requires Pennsylvania to: Designate as voter registration agencies all offices providing state-funded services to individuals with disabilities; Offer voter registration assistance with each – application for services or benefits, – re-application or re-certification, – or change of address; Provide the same level of service in completing the voter registration forms as the agency’s own forms.

4 Meet Bob

5 Bob receives disability services He is one of 79,000 Allegheny County residents who receive services from the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH). OBH is one of 5 Offices within the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. The other Offices are: Aging; Children, Youth & Families; Community Services; and Intellectual Disability. The Department of Human Services served 194,972 people last year.

6 Bob has severe anxiety Bob suffered a traumatic head injury at the age of 13. Bob was awarded childhood disability benefits, and has been on SSI since his teens. Bob has been homeless for the past few years. His wife and child are staying with her sister. The house is so small Bob stays on the street.

7 Bob applies for homeless services The Office of Behavioral Health provides many wonderful programs to individuals experiencing homelessness. Bob heard through the grapevine that OBH offered services that could help turn his life around.

8 Bob’s success story Bob applied for services with OBH. Bob’s wife and child have been able to live together with Bob as a family for the first time in over two years. Bob is happy with the new direction in his life.

9 But wait! Where was the voter registration offer? The OBH funded agency that served Bob was told by the Pennsylvania Department of State that it did not have a duty to provide Bob with voter registration services! Q – why not? A – Because someone else is supposed to offer Bob that opportunity to register to vote.

10 All offices? Each application? Q – I thought the NVRA says all offices, how many agencies are under contract with the Office of Behavioral Health? A – Approximately 108. Q – Who does the Department of State say should have provided the voter registration offer? A – The County Assistance Office.

11 The same level of service? Q – But wait, at what point would Bob have to go to the County Assistance Office? A – Never.

12 Bob’s source of income (S.S.I. – Supplemental Security Income) is a federal benefit with certain additional benefits from the State (medical assistance benefits, for example). Because Bob’s eligibility is determined by the Social Security Administration, Bob would never have a need to go to the County Assistance Office.

13 Maybe this is bigger than Bob! Q – So if Bob isn’t getting a voter registration offer, could this be happening to everyone on SSI? A – Pennsylvania has over a quarter million voting- age SSI recipients (279,256) – this could be happening to all of them. Many people on SSI are in nursing homes and personal care homes with very limited ability to go somewhere like a library to register to vote. They would never need to go to the County Assistance Office!

14 Who else? Q – Is it only people on SSI who are being denied voter registration services? A – No. This would also include people on SSDI (Social Security Disability Income). But none of the clients in the agency that served Bob are offered a voter registration in this system.

15 Q – If this is what’s happening, are the registration numbers really low? A – Most counties report zero registrations by mental health agencies. In fact, two-thirds of our 67 counties have reported zero registrations by mental health agencies – for the past four years in a row!

16 Is this only a problem with Mental Health Agencies? No. The numbers are the same for agencies that serve people with intellectual disabilities. Special Education programs in High Schools have even lower registration numbers. We haven’t found any school district that has received instructions on what the NVRA requires them to do.

17 How is PennDOT doing? The Bureau of Motor Vehicles is where most voter registrations originate. Last year 221,000 people registered through PennDOT; 3,500 people registered through disability service, aging and public assistance agencies.

18 What should we do? The Disability Voting Coalition will be asking Auditor General Jack Wager to conduct a performance audit. He will be able to determine whether Pennsylvania is fulfilling its duties under the law We need your support. If your organization will support this action please go to by October 20th.

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