DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Maria Matzik has muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy Type 2. She has a ventilator and a tracheotomy. She has difficulty getting around, which makes voting on Election Day challenging.
“If I go to the actual site, it depends how accessible to the site is. But when we get there, you have to have a Democrat and Republican representative to actually assist you. There’s no private area to do that. They’ll just like push you to the side,” Matzik explained.
Matzik is one of many people living with disabilities who struggle with access to voting on Election Day. Disability Rights Ohio is trying to change that, and help break down barriers to voting. Kevin Truitt is the Legal Advocacy Director for DRO.
“We want a voting system that is accessible to all people, including voters with disabilities, that allows people to feel included in our democratic system, our electoral system, and to make sure that their voices are heard,” Truitt said.
Truitt said they want to remind people living with disabilities there are options when it comes to casting your ballots. By law, every polling location is supposed to be accessible, and election officials at each precinct can help people with disabilities fill out their ballots.
Truitt said people can also request absentee ballots, including people in nursing facilities or other types of congregate care settings, and receive help filling out those ballots.
“There are special absentee ballot processes for those populations where if you need assistance filling out your ballot, you can request that Board of Elections officials bring the ballot to you where you live and help you fill it out, answer any questions, provide assistance, and then basically return it to the Board of Elections. And your vote has been cast,” Truitt explained.
Despite the challenges she faces during elections, Matzik said she is always determined to vote and she encourages other people with disabilities to not let anything stop them from casting their ballots.
“I feel like everybody needs to believe that their voice actually does matter and one vote does make a difference. So do whatever you can through your right to vote,” Matzik said.
If you need help or have questions about voting, you can reach out to Disability Rights Ohio by visiting their website or calling (614)-466-7264.