Voting Is My Favorite Thing

I have voted in every national election, and most state and local elections, since I turned 18. I’ve stood in lines outside of schools, courthouses, firehouses, retirement homes, and administrative buildings, eager to register my stance on candidates and issues that were important to me. My passion has endured the frustration of watching our political system fail to serve so many people, and of learning in law school how deeply embedded in our system these failures are. Despite all this, I still believe that voting is the most important way that we participate in the democratic system, and my belief in the importance of electoral participation has only gotten stronger since I was diagnosed with MS.

The many hurdles, both practical and emotional, that a person with a disability might face when trying to exercise their right to vote only became apparent as I became acquainted with them myself: losing the ability to walk to school, as after half a mile I found myself tripping and dizzy; becoming unable to summon the strength in my right hand to sign a receipt for my coffee; failing to recognize friends passing on the sidewalk as my vision blurred; missing meetings and blanking on names as my memory became unreliable. And I was very, very tired. At the height of an MS flare, when performing basic, necessary tasks requires momentous effort, voting would cede to more immediate concerns.

But government can help by ensuring that polling places are physically accessible, by providing and maintaining accessible voting equipment, and by making sure that anyone who seeks information about accommodations can easily find it. That’s where the federal Elections Assistance Commission comes in, as the primary resource for information regarding voting in the United States, including specific resources for voters with disabilities. Voters with disabilities face a particular set of challenges that others don’t face: We cannot always get to our polling places. Accessible equipment is not always available, and when it is, it doesn’t always work as intended.

As a member of the National MS Society’s Greater New England Government Relations Committee, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting and training for REV Up America — a nationwide campaign to get out the disability vote — thereby harnessing our community’s power to influence decisions of particular importance to us, like social security, Medicare, health care, affordable housing, accessible transportation, employment and more. In that first meeting, we discussed the potential power of the disability vote and the hurdles we face in exercising that power, starting with a simple first step: registering to vote. REV Up’s work is the promise held by an organized voting disability community: the promise of influence. The promise of a voice, and a powerful one at that.

Though facing an incurable and unpredictable disease like MS can be disempowering — at times, it has caused me, for one, to doubt my ability to control my life — learning to advocate for myself and for others with MS has been profoundly empowering. Volunteering as an MS activist has encouraged me to educate my legislators about MS and urge them to support measures that make a real difference in the lives of people with MS. Now, by participating in REV Up, I help others in our oft-overlooked community to feel empowered to register their opinions and, hopefully, influence the political conversation.

First, though, we have to show up. Register to vote!
Learn more about voter registration, accessibility and your rights here
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Lauren

Lauren Shryne

Lauren's involvement with the National MS Society focuses primarily on volunteering with the Government Relations Committee, through which she pesters her elected representatives to support legislative initiatives that are important to people with MS. She is a lawyer, and voting really is one of her favorite things.

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    6 Comments

  • Joy   Sep 29, 2016 11:00 AM
    Agree 100%. This election matter to those of us with MS as well as more generally.
    One candidate's healthcare plan would increase coverage by 9M people; the other would cause 20M people to lose cover.
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    bjbecker43  Sep 29, 2016 11:04 AM
    I now vote via mail. My ballot is sent to me a few weeks before the election. I could have told you 6 months ago who I was voting for. All I had to do was show them my handicapped placard and sign a form. I will continue to vote and don't have to be afraid that I can't stand there long enough, have to use a nonexistent bathroom in a timely fashion or be looked at like I don't belong. This method was ideal for me.
  • Christine Kennedy   Sep 29, 2016 1:03 PM
    I appreciate your thoughts, especially on using our privileges and our time and talents to the best of our abilities. PERSONAL growth is what is important.
  • Christine Kennedy   Sep 29, 2016 1:04 PM
    I appreciate your thoughts, especially on using our privileges and our time and talents to the best of our abilities. PERSONAL growth is what is important.
  • Mike Shryne   Oct 2, 2016 4:26 AM
    Full disclosure. I am Lauren's dad. Having said that I also want to note my mother, Lauren's grandmother, also had MS. So this disease is not a stranger in our family. Please do harness your collective power to vote and influence outcomes that help those with disabilities. And know that you can rely on friends and family to help amplify that influence.
  • Happy   Oct 4, 2016 3:26 PM
    Appreciate this