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Disability and Voting

Professor Michael Waterstone, a disability rights-law expert at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, discusses concerns about the voting rights of people with disabilities in this election.

By Associate Dean Michael Waterstone

My primary research area, disability law, typically doesn't garner a lot of headlines or attention in presidential elections. There was a National Forum on Disability Issues in September of 2012 where both candidates were invited, but neither showed up (President Obama was represented by Ted Kennedy, Jr. and Governor Romney was represented by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)). In a way this is understandable -- disability is a less contentious civil rights issue than some other areas. It may just be a perception that there is less to fight about (and a good fight is what really draws media attention).

But there are certainly many important issues relevant to people with disabilities that are at stake in this election. A major one is health care. The provision of the Affordable Care Act that stops insurance companies from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions can help people with disabilities move in and out of the labor force without losing their health insurance. This approach, I have argued elsewhere, is part of the explanation of the higher rate of veterans with disabilities, who have access to the VA for some healthcare services. Governor Romney seemed to suggest that his healthcare proposals would also cover people with preexisting conditions, but most analyses I have seen refute this, at least to the extent that it would help people with long term disabilities be more fluid in and out of jobs. Another issue of importance to the disability community is the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. President Obama signed the treaty and has urged ratification; as far as I could find, Governor Romney has taken no public position on the issue.

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Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Disabilities are a secondary issue for most people until they have a disability. Then, all the abuses become glaring. While I applaud Pres. Obama signing a Rights of Persons w Disabilities, it would be more American if this were a national law rather than one administered by the United Nations which has no business in determining the internal affairs of individual nations even if they have strong recommendations. Countries that are free, should remain free. Put the UN in it's place, making recommendations rather than looming over w international enforcements. Keep freedom in every free country true. Let the people and individual countries decide what laws they choose to adopt.

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