Disability Rights Blog
Feb 01

DRSD’s Statement on Participation in the Democratic Process – Updated Feb. 1st, 2021

Disability Rights South Dakota (DRSD) condemns the violence that took place in Washington, D.C., on and around January 6, 2021. This violence was an attempt to disenfranchise millions of voters and an effort to prevent the transfer of power. DRSD has worked for years to ensure that voters with disabilities and other groups of people have equal access to participate in elections and that their votes will be counted.

The events on January 6, 2021, demonstrate that the right to vote remains the cornerstone of our election processes, and with the exercise of the right to vote comes the expectation of a peaceful transfer of power. The United States was a system the world could look to for guidance on how to run an election in a democracy, until January 6, 2021. The leaders of other countries who work toward the suppression of democracy used the riot in Washington, D.C., as an example of why democracy is a failed system.

Our democracy was threatened when rioters were allowed entry to the halls of Congress in an obvious effort to thwart the will of the voters. People of any political belief who act in this manner, and those who urge them on from the sidelines, should be held accountable.  While the actions of the rioters were inexcusable and the events on January 6, 2021, will go down as a stain on our democracy, it should also serve as a learning experience for our country.  Democracy cannot be taken for granted.  All states need to ensure that everyone who has a legal right to vote can do so.  The states need to make sure that there are no physical or legal barriers that impede any voter’s ability to vote how they choose. These changes should be made in a way that do not disenfranchise anyone, ensure the validity of the results, and encourage and support voter participation by people traditionally left out of the process.

This attack may have delayed, but did not stop, United States lawmakers from confirming the election results. Elected officials at all levels must work together to repair the systems that led to the violent events on and surrounding January 6, 2021, by implementing changes to strengthen our safety net, to deliver quality health care and education, to provide access to good jobs, to combat discrimination, and to end voter suppression.

We all witnessed law enforcement’s response on January 6, 2021. In 2015, when ADAPT went to Washington to protest Congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, 43 protesters with disabilities were arrested by Capitol Police Officers for “obstructing passage through the hallway and into nearby offices.”  Both protests were about the right to address grievances. The protest in 2015 led to peaceful protesters who use wheelchairs being taken to the floor and handcuffed, and the more recent events led to rioters invading the congressional building and damaging property. Why was the reaction so different? We need systemic changes that advance equal justice under the law.

On January 20, 2021, we saw the peaceful transition of power. Sometimes we forget that this is the expectation and the routine in this country. The transition was made even more powerful by diverse performances and performers celebrating this outcome. This diversity is an example of how the talents of all peoples can be combined for the benefit of the nation.

As an organization, we stand with all people with disabilities in all communities, including Black, Latino, Native American, Asian Pacific Islander, immigrant, and LGBTQIA+ communities. We are committed to and will continue to fight for equality, civil rights, and justice.

DISCLAIMER: DRSD is part of a national network of federally funded protection and advocacy agencies.  Part of this statement borrows from a similar statement issued by our colleagues at Disability Rights California last week.