WASHINGTON - Better use of technology and support services could make voting more accessible for the more than 49,000 Americans injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report released today by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
Many of these individuals are in recovery and rehabilitative centers away from their homes and face barriers that prevent them from voting privately and independently, according to the report Making Voting More Accessible for Veterans with Disabilities. In addition, many are still learning to use assistive technology and adapt to their changed circumstances. The report details the specific barriers they face to participating in elections and explores the opportunities for federal, state and local government efforts for improving access to voting for veterans with disabilities.
"We have an obligation to make sure that every American has an opportunity to exercise their right to vote privately and independently," said ITIF Senior Analyst Daniel Castro who led the research project. "This report provides a comprehensive summary of what governments are doing - and can do better - to honor that obligation."
Among the injuries troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling with is traumatic brain injury (TBI), which can affect cognitive functioning and independence, polytrauma-traumatic injury to multiple parts of the body which often results in mobility impairments or amputation of limbs as well as visual and hearing impairments, including sensitivity to light, tinnitus and hearing loss, especially as a result of explosions.
The report explains the many ways to build on and improve current efforts, including providing an accessible absentee voting system for use within treatment facilities, better use of technology for voter registration and requesting an absentee ballot, and better coordination with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies to provide voter assistance to veterans. It also presents very specific recommendations on the design of ballots, equipment, and innovative technologies that could be used to improve access to elections by disabled veterans.
The report is the result of a partnership with ITIF, the Georgia Tech Research Institute, and the Operation BRAVO Foundation begun in 2010 with a grant received from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). It is a part of broader government efforts to determine the voting needs of recently injured military personnel and recommend practical and efficient ways to improve voting technologies and election administration practices. ITIF's research has focused on recently disabled military personnel with civilian status (i.e., veterans with disabilities from Iraq and Afghanistan). However, many of the findings from this research will apply to injured active duty military personnel and veterans from previous conflicts.
"Our hope is that election officials will use this research to improve voting for the 3.4 million veterans with a service-connected disability," said ITIF Senior Analyst Daniel Castro.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank at the cutting edge of designing innovation strategies and technology policies to create economic opportunities and improve quality of life in the United States and around the world. Founded in 2006, ITIF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, non-partisan organization that documents the beneficial role technology plays in our lives and provides fact-based analysis and pragmatic ideas for improving technology-driven productivity, boosting competitiveness, and meeting today's global challenges through innovation. For additional information, visit ITIF at www.itif.org or contact Steve Norton at (202) 626-5758 or [email protected].