#TheArcVotes Blog

#TheArcVotes Blog

Leo Sarkissian Discusses #TheArcVotes On WBZ 4 Your Community

On Saturday morning, July 14, The Arc of Massachusetts Executive Director Leo Sarkissian appeared on WBZ / CBS Boston’s 4 Your Community with anchor Anaridis Rodriguez. In this interview, Leo discusses the ongoing national efforts behind the REV UP campaign, as well as The Arc of Massachusetts’ own campaign, #TheArcVotes!

You can view the segment in its entirety below.

Posted in , , | Posted on July 16, 2018 | Leave a comment Continue reading

Vinfen Self-Advocates Encourage Voter Advocacy

After completing a training on voting and the registration process, members of Vinfen’s Metro Boston Self-Advocacy Group are now focusing their advocacy efforts on encouraging people with disabilities to vote and make their voices heard. The group is comprised of people Vinfen serves who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and is led by Vinfen Director of Service Asela Jayasinghe and Director of Community Living Meg Gaydos.

Due to their strong history of advocating for the rights and needs of people with disabilities, and dedication to supporting their local community through volunteerism, the Self-Advocacy Group was chosen to receive Vinfen’s first training on voter advocacy.

The training was delivered by Vinfen Development and Special Events Coordinator Alex Yellin, who developed the Vinfen Voter Advocacy Guide and training plan with the aim of supporting the people Vinfen serves to register, vote, and address the issues that matter to them. The self-advocates learned about the voting process, including how to register, their rights on Election Day, and what to expect at the polls. Several individuals registered to vote during the training.

For Donald L., it was his first time registering to vote. “This is an opportunity I’ve never felt I had before, but now that I have it, I’m going to vote,” he said. He was especially excited to support his preferred candidate in the next presidential election.

Kim W. was thrilled to have the chance to register to vote during the training. “I want to vote because I want my voice to be heard,” she said. Armed with this knowledge on the intricacies of the voting process, the group has set their sights on supporting other people with disabilities to advocate for themselves by voting.

“I want to vote because I feel it’s time to be a part of the movement that supports people with disabilities,” said Javel P. He and his fellow group members have been working hard to connect people served by Vinfen and other people with disabilities in their communities with the resources they need to vote and advocate for themselves. But perhaps most importantly, they have gone above and beyond to provide encouragement and reminders about the importance of voting.

“I’ve been voting for long time and I will never miss an election. I always vote,” said self-advocacy group member Barbara M. Another veteran voter, Deb T., echoed her enthusiasm for the importance of making your voice heard by submitting a ballot. “Of course, I vote! I want to be a part of it,” she said.

Posted with the permission of Vinfen. Thanks to Asela Jayasinghe for sharing this wonderful story.

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Posted in | Posted on July 2, 2018 | Leave a comment Continue reading

Leo’s Letter: #TheArcVotes: Join Us As We REV UP The Vote!

On Monday, Julie Heffernan and I announced the launch of our #TheArcVotes campaign at The Arc of Massachusetts with a short Facebook Live that talked about why we vote and how elected officials shape the services and resources that all of us, including people with disabilities, need.

Elected officials choose administrators and policies for our public schools, including special education services; and they also determine the access to adult services when students turn 22 years old – whether they receive employment, personal care attendants, transportation, housing, or other key resources.

This year, changes to both Medicaid and food assistance have been debated in Congress. For example, tomorrow (Friday, June 22), the House of Representatives (DC) will vote for the second time on a proposed bill that would cut off or reduce basic food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for roughly 2 million people across the nation. Jim Kruidenier of Stavros ILC has commented on his exposure to stories about the lack of food for many people with disabilities in our state. In 2007, Congressman Jim McGovern lived on the food stamp allowance to demonstrate its inadequacy.

Health care, education, personal care, and income assistance are all pretty significant items for one’s life – especially if you have a disability.

But it’s also our duty to vote. As Susan B. Anthony once stated, “How can the consent of the governed be given if the right to vote is denied?” Similarly, how long will our power to have consent continue if citizens don’t vote? In 2014, only 40% of those registered voted. During Presidential election years, we may hit 60% turnout. But 21% of the eligible population doesn’t even register, bringing those numbers down further.

The Pew Charitable Foundation ordered a study in 2016 to see why millions don’t vote that is worth reading. Make sure you are registered, and if not, you have until August 15 to register for our September primaries, and registration for the November election is open until October 17.

It’s our duty to vote – and your vote, along with your civic participation, does make a difference. Learn more on the official #TheArcVotes site.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Leo V. Sarkissian
Executive Director

Posted in , , | Posted on June 21, 2018 | Leave a comment Continue reading

Voting Rights of Persons Under Guardianship

Voting is a fundamental right of all American citizens. Federal and state law provide important protections for persons with disabilities to ensure the protection of the fundamental right to vote. While Massachusetts law makes persons “under guardianship” ineligible to vote in all elections, this provision has been interpreted by the Elections Division of the Massachusetts Secretary of State to refer only to guardianships that contain specific findings prohibiting voting.

Therefore, a person is eligible to vote unless he/she is subject to a guardianship decree which specifically prohibits voting. 

Further, a person under guardianship is not required to shoulder the burden of obtaining court modification or findings of their guardianship decree explicitly allowing him or her to vote. Local election officials have no discretion to reject voter registration because of guardianship unless the guardianship decree specifically prohibits the person under guardianship from voting.

The Elections Division of the Massachusetts Secretary of State can be reached at 800-462-VOTE (8683) toll-free or 617-727-2828.

Frederick M. Misilo, Jr. is an Officer of Fletcher Tilton PC, Chairperson of the Elder Law and Special Needs Practice Group, and Chairperson of the Trust and Estate Department. He also serves on the firm’s Management Committee. As one of the nation’s leading elder law and special needs attorneys, he focuses his practice on the areas of elder law, special needs planning, estate planning, estate and trust administration, guardianship, and adult service advocacy.

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Posted in | Posted on June 18, 2018 | Leave a comment Continue reading

Opinion: Voting Really Makes A Difference

No right is more precious than the constitutional right to select our leaders. Yet thousands of eligible disabled American citizens are not even registered to vote. There was a time in the US nation’s history when barriers were erected to limit citizen access to the voting booth. The federal Voting Rights Act further safeguards the rights of all Americans to participate in our electoral system.

These precious rights should be of value to ALL individuals of American origin, born or naturalized, to take time to exercise them. Politicians listen to people who vote – or they’ll be out of a job. Elections have a lot to do in our lives and the lives of people close to us. Changing a couple of votes in the Senate or House –  in the State Legislature – can change what happens to billions of dollars.

Helping other American citizens to register to vote, and reminding them how important it is to vote, is a part of my calling for them to have the voice that we need while making our participation in the US democratic process stronger.

Henry Milorin is a former Board Member of The Arc of Massachusetts. A Haitian immigrant, Henry came to the United States in his 20s with dreams of becoming a dentist. Upon the birth of his son Reggie, however, his career path changed. Reggie was born with autism, and Henry’s career and life path changed toward a life of advocacy. Over the last twenty years Henry has served as a volunteer and on the board of numerous disability organizations. He is a political advisor and consultant and a strong believer in civic engagement. Along with his wife, Evelyne (a former LEND fellow), he has become a revered member of the disability community, as well as the Haitian community within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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Posted in | Posted on June 11, 2018 | Leave a comment Continue reading

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