Julie McKinney, MS
October 26, 2022

Why vote? How to vote? How to vote safely?

Your vote can help protect programs that support family members with disabilities. Learn some tips to vote safely and make sure it counts.

Did you know that only about 60% of people who can vote, actually do? Often it’s less. I know that people get discouraged and feel like it won’t matter. But it does matter! Many of the programs and services we count on to take care of our families exist because people fought to create them and keep them running. And it’s our privilege to choose these people. Our vote helps shape the world we live in and the services that will help our kids have a good life.

Why is voting so important, especially for people with disabilities?

Does your child rely on strong special education services or therapies like speech or OT? Do you have (or need) health insurance that covers testing and treatments? Do you get help from family support centers or vocational programs? If you or someone in your family has a disability, voting is critical! Voting for the right people can help make sure you get the right support.

The people we vote into office make decisions about things like healthcare, support programs, testing and treatment, and policies to support families. Candidates may have very different views on these programs and how well to fund them.

Depending on who wins for national, state and local elections, the services you rely on can be either strengthened or weakened. Think about things like medicaid, special education, health insurance, and government programs to take care of people with disabilities. Some candidates will fight to keep these programs strong, and others may reduce or even cut them. Your vote can make sure that the programs your family needs continue to be there for you.

How do you register and vote?

You must register to vote before you can vote. Each state has different ways to do this, but it is usually pretty easy. Almost all states let you register online. It’s a simple form that you can fill out and either mail in or bring to the elections office in your town.

Timing: States have different deadlines. Sometimes you must register a few weeks before the election and some states let you register the same day.

The first thing to do is find out your state’s rules and deadlines. Click here to learn about your state’s process. If you have any questions, call your local election office, which you can find at the link.


  1. Check this list to find the deadlines for your state.

  2. Fill out this form online. It will give you a form to print out and mail in to your election office. 

  3. To register in person, go to your local election office

Vote by mail:

  1. Request your ballot. (They will mail it to you.)

  2. Fill out your ballot carefully. If you need help, call your local election office.

  3. Send it in before the deadline, or bring it to your election office.

Vote in person:

  1. Find your polling place

  2. See if you can vote early. Call your local election office for details.

  3. Make sure you know the rules and have the right forms of ID.

  4. If anyone tries to stop you, call the Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-687-8683.

How can I vote easily & safely?

You may not want to vote in person, especially if there will be long lines. The easiest way to vote is by mail. Most states will let you vote by mail, even if you don’t have a reason, but some require an excuse to vote by mail.

Voting by mail is also called absentee voting. You have to request a ballot by mail, phone or online. Then your town will send you a ballot. You fill it out and either send it back or bring it to the election office and drop it in the box in person. Either way, no lines and very safe. You may hear that voting by mail leads to fraud, or problems with a fair count. This is not true. Voting by mail has been shown to be as fair as in-person voting.

If you vote by mail, do it as soon as possible! 

The post offices are going to be busy!

You can also vote early in some states. This is safer than waiting until election day and risking a big line. 

Click here to look up your state’s election dates, deadlines, and different ways you can vote.

Voting Tips

  • Know your state’s dates and rules. Go to usvotefoundation.org or vote.org
  • Register and vote as early as you can
  • If anyone intimidates you or tries to prevent you from registering or voting, call the Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-687-8683
  • Julie McKinney, MS

    Director of Training / Health Literacy Specialist

    Julie McKinney has over 25 years of experience in health literacy, plain language, and adult education. She has deep expertise in writing information so it’s easy to understand, and has developed trainings for educators in clear communication.

    At Exceptional Lives, she ensures that our content is clear and friendly. She also works to strengthen relationships with community partners, and designs trainings that help them connect with families.
    Julie also has experience parenting kids with ADHD, learning disabilities and significant intellectual disability. She has ushered her own children through schooling and transition to adulthood, and is committed to helping make this process easier for others.

    Her core view is that good relationships are the key to just about anything we hope for.

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