Elkhart County educating ADEC clients on voting rights

Elkhart County educating members of ADEC on their voting rights. // WSBT 22

The presidential election is less than three months away, and voter turnout is expected to be a record breaker.

Though, there is one group of eligible voters that are often forgotten: disabled voters.

They don’t usually turn out in high numbers. In fact, only 45% of people with disabilities cast their ballot in the 2012 presidential election.

This year, the Elkhart County Election’s Board is trying to make a dent in that number, locally.

Today at the Association for Disabled of Elkhart County, or ADEC, in Middlebury—Angie Troyer of Voter Outreach, taught clients how to vote.

Clients of ADEC are adults who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“Today we covered how to use the equipment, how to get registered, the option of voting by mail or by travel-board,” said Troyer.

The students she is teaching often have barriers working against them when they go out to vote.

“People with disabilities can do stuff,” said John Hunter, a client at ADEC.

Donna Belusar, the president of ADEC, said the partnership between the county is needed.

“It is surprising. Many of our clients who have disabilities were not aware that they had a right to vote,” said Belusar.

ADEC says the common misconception is that people with disabilities don’t have knowledge on the issues, but Belusar said that’s not often the case.

“We start everyday with current events,” she said. “So whether it’s the massive flooding that went on, or it’s the political environment that’s going on. If you asked one of our clients, they would tell you who is running for president.”

Troyer thinks everyone who is eligible should cast his or her ballot.

“I always tell people who are like, ‘Oh well, you know, those people shouldn’t vote.’ I ask ‘Well, who do you think should? Is it only people who think like you?’”

Hunter is excited to cast his ballot, and for him, November couldn’t come soon enough.

“Because it is the most important thing of the year,” he said.

Troyer said she enjoys educating people on their rights.

“You just see them light up and there is so much excitement,” she said. “It’s really that amount of joy in saying, ‘I’m a real person and I have just as many rights as you.’”

In addition to ADEC, Troyer is going around to local jails to teach inmates their voting rights.

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