On January 7th David Carlson, DRW’s Advocacy Director, penned a letter on DRW’s behalf to each member of Washington’s Congressional Delegation to express our relief they were safe and to convey that Disability Rights Washington strongly condemns the attack on democracy and the rule of law January 6th at the U.S. Capitol. 

As the designated Protection and Advocacy System for Washington State, we have a federal mandate under the various Protection and Advocacy Acts to enforce and advance the rights of people with disabilities across Washington. Pursuant to the Help America Vote Act, this includes the voting rights of people with disabilities. The right to register and cast a ballot is meaningless if the voters and candidate on the losing end of the election ignore the outcome and use force to get their way. What happened yesterday was not an attempt to exercise the First Amendment, it was an attempt to forcibly erase the votes legally cast by tens of millions of Americans, including of course millions of disabled Americans. This attempted disenfranchisement cannot simply be ignored. Disability Rights Washington calls, not for forcible retribution mirroring the force used yesterday, but for the use of appropriate legal mechanisms to hold these individuals accountable for their actions.

We are a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Our sole allegiance is the disability community. We are well aware that the disability community is not a monolith in politics or any other area of life. There are people of all political persuasions in our community, and we fight for all of them to have a voice. We are also well aware that no particular party has our community’s back at all times. We have to advocate hard to enforce and expand the rights of people with disabilities no matter who is in the state house, white house, or court house. We receive an annual grant from the federal government to help ensure Washingtonians with disabilities can freely vote when and how they choose.

This work is made a mockery when some voters and federal officials only want to count the votes they agree with. The votes have been counted, all legal reviews have indicated the election was fair, attempting to overturn the outcome is an attack on the people who voted, including disabled people who voted. We call on federal officials who support democracy to take whatever legal action is in their power to hold those who waged this attack accountable.

Additionally, we ask that you take affirmative efforts to reinforce the credibility of our elections, especially the remote voting options so many people with disabilities use. Certainly the decision of many states to use mail in voting this year was helpful at avoiding the unnecessary further spreading of the corona virus, but here in Washington where we have had universally mailed ballots in addition to the option of using an in-person accessible voting machine for years, we have the best of both worlds and voting is much more accessible to people with disabilities. We ask that you take efforts to make it as easy as possible to register, get a ballot, cast a ballot, have that ballot counted, and the aggregate outcome of the collective votes followed without the threat of force looming over each of those fundamental acts of democracy.

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