One of the best ways to get involved as a champion of disability rights is to use your voice for action via advocacy, and perhaps more important, by voting for candidates that mesh with your beliefs. With 100% of the people we serve being disabled we depend on funds from Medicare and Medicaid to properly care for the population we are dedicated to helping live rich and full lives. A big part of advocating for disability services is letting our elected officials know how quality care directly impacts the lives of people living with disabilities, and why funding is vitally important. You can help Living Well by letting your community, and future leaders, know that people with disabilities are deserving of our time and friendship by voting for candidates who support funding services and programs for the disabled.
It is also important to remember that disability is not a barrier to voting and that all citizens over the age of 18 are allowed to vote. Which is why the staff at Living Well work hard to ensure that anyone who wants to vote, can and does get the opportunity. We chatted with Teewon Dolopei, Program Manager at 3807, to see how the homes manage the voting process and planning. With 37 homes and people who receive services in their own homes, together totaling 300, it does not look the same at each place. However, the message it always the same—if the people served by Living Well want to vote, staff will help get them to the polls, or involve interested families in the process. It is not our place to suggest candidates or policies, rather to help people navigate the already complicated process of casting a vote. While disability funding is at the top of mind for many advocates, there are many issues that people can place at the top of their priorities when at the polls. In the end we want people to know the issues, decide what matters to them, and vote for candidates they support on either side of the aisle. We also want to people understand that Disability is Diversity, and that people with disabilities vote, which is why we created buttons and stickers to help spread the word.
Teewon says that in the 2020 election seven of the eight people who live at 3807 voted by absentee ballot. This year he expects the same, and maybe even the whole house. While they will most likely go in person, he always offers up early voting or the by mail option. Teewon says just like the rest of us the presidential elections garner the most interest, but that staff work to inform people about local races for representatives and senators, as well school board and sheriff and all the things that one finds on a ballot. They also involve people served in rallies in the various districts and encourage them to participate in Day at the Capitol, supporting disability funding.
Teewon points out, “We explain who is championing the disability cause, but never endorse a candidate. They make the decision.” He adds that in general they start discussing it a week before, as the process can induce anxiety for some, and that it is beneficial to wait until closer to election day for many. However, some are up for an early conversation, so Teewon recently took the time to chat with James, an involved voter over the years, about the ballot and races. Debora Krienitz, Program Manager at Central, says this year an election judge reached out to offer assistance for those living in the home, to ensure everyone had the info they needed. According to Beth Tollefson, Senior Director of Program Services, the decision to vote and process by which the people we serve vote (at the poll vs absentee, full ballot, partial ballot…) is carefully discussed by their support teams. Tollefson says, “We work hard to ensure that it is done a manner that is ethical and individualized to each person’s voice and opinion. Some people we support chose to not be involved in this civic action, similar to general population.”
This level of advocacy and commitment to getting the word out is just another way Living Well creates a culture of caring. We know the policies and programs being funded will have a direct impact on the care and attention given to people living with disabilities and know that the right to vote is not to be taken lightly. Teewon says, “Voting is the time of the year that citizens get the opportunity to determine and choose their leaders.” He adds, “I take voting very seriously and am happy to help the people at 3807 navigate the process.”
At Living Well, we believe our voices matter—our employee’s voices, the voices of the people we support, and the voices of our supporters and families, like you. Together let’s scream about the need for disability funding, by casting our ballots. When we use our voices collectively, change can happen, and funding can be found. Please take the time to plan on voting and in so doing, support the causes and people you hold close to your heart.
Mark your calendar, VOTING DAY is on Tuesday, November 8th, 2022! You can vote early or by mail, but you need to know the rules. So, make sure you have the info you need to vote easily and with confidence. Be sure to check out who is on your ballot before you go to the polls. Use the link below to see a sample ballot and then research the candidates prior to voting. Here are resources to help you make a voting plan: Vote 411 The Arc Minnesota Ballotpedia My Ballot
We are grateful to the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits for selecting us as 1 of the 31 organizations across Minnesota who received a voter engagement grant!