More than 35 million disabled Americans are eligible to vote. That enormous block (which includes everyone with limb difference) equals roughly one-seventh of the overall U.S. electorate—and the campaign to get everyone to the polls starts next Monday with the annual National Disability Voter Registration Week. Sponsored annually by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the nonpartisan initiative takes no sides in the red-blue political divide. Its sole objectives are to amplify the voices of people with disabilities and encourage all to participate in the project of self-governance.
The event carries a little extra meaning this year because it immediately precedes the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which represents the greatest mobilization of disabled Americans in history. Moreover, for amputees in particular, 2020 may bring some extra reasons to get out to the polls.
Amputee office-seekers have already scored a big win this election season, with Daniel Gade securing the Republican nomination in Virginia’s U.S. Senate race. Gade will face the incumbent, Mark Warner, in November’s general election; if he wins, he’ll become the third amputee in the upper chamber, joining Democrats Tammy Duckworth of Illinois (who lost both legs in Iraq) and John Tester of Montana (who lost three fingers of his left hand in a childhood accident). Considering that Gade might become only the seventh amputee ever to serve in the U.S. Senate’s 230-year history, having three at one time would be fairly remarkable.
But even if Gade gets elected, the Senate’s limb-difference caucus might stay at two members—because the aforementioned Duckworth seems to be one of the finalists for the Democrats’ vice-presidential candidacy. The Washington Post reports that the Illinois senator “has quietly emerged as a serious contender,” while New York Times columnist Frank Bruni describes Duckworth as an “obvious” choice for VP.
We may not know for another month whether Duckworth becomes the first amputee ever to appear on a major-party presidential ticket. Regardless of who’s on the ballot or which way you lean politically, the main thing is to make your voice heard.