Senate Candidates Have Yet to Complete #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire
Washington, Oct. 13 – As voters get ready to head to the polls in North Dakota, RespectAbility is releasing is North Dakota Disability Voter guide for the upcoming gubernatorial, senate and presidential elections. Democrat Marvin Nelson and Republican Doug Burgum are seeking the governorship. Regarding the senate seat, Democrat Eliot Glassheim is challenging Republican incumbent John Hoeven. Unfortunately for the 75,202 North Dakotans with a disability, none of the candidates have completed the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire for Senate and Gubernatorial Candidates for people with disabilities. Both Hoeven and Burgum declined to complete the questionnaire. Glassheim has yet to respond but Nelson’s campaign has said they are planning to complete the questionnaire soon.
Twenty-three other candidates for Senate, as well as nine candidates for governor, from both sides of the aisle (19 Democrats, 13 Republicans) have responded so far, showing that disability rights is a nonpartisan issue. The responses also are geographically-diverse, coming from states all around the country, as politicians are paying more and more attention to the disability community. On the presidential level, Democrat Hillary Clinton has completed the questionnaire while Republican Donald Trump has yet to do so.
The #PwDsVote 2016 Campaign Questionnaires were designed by and for people with disabilities (PwDs) and those who love them to know where candidates stand on key issues. RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. The questionnaires are purely for educational purposes as voters go to the polls.
According to a new report from Rutgers University, 35.4 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote in the November 2016 elections, representing close to one-sixth of the total electorate. That’s an increase of nearly 11 percent since 2008.
The presidential questionnaire was created during the primary season and asked all of the presidential candidates to comment on 16 disability questions. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded by addressing all of the questions. Despite numerous requests in person and by phone and email, the Trump campaign has not yet filled out the questionnaire. The American Association of People with Disabilities and the National Council on Independent Living also has a nonpartisan presidential questionnaire, which both Clinton and Trump have completed. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein have not filled out either questionnaire.
The down-ballot survey was adapted from the presidential questionnaire to ask gubernatorial candidates 16 questions and senatorial candidates 17 questions. All answers are posted verbatim and in full on The RespectAbility Report, a publication that covers the intersection of disability and politics.
North Dakota ranks second in the nation for employment of people with disabilities as almost half the working-age people with disabilities in North Dakota are employed. While North Dakota may be seeing a dip in its employment number due to the evolving challenges of the energy, the state has worked hard to achieve improved outcomes. Outside observers might discuss the case study of North Dakota as being a small state with a tiny population who got lucky with a booming energy sector with little relevance to disability policy. However, states like the Dakotas has achieved increased results in terms of jobs for people with disabilities by putting best practices into place.
Fully one-out-of-five people have a disability, and 52 percent of likely voters have a loved one with a disability. Only 34 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities nationally have jobs, despite the fact that the vast majority want to work. More than 11 million working age people with disabilities are now living on government benefits in our country.
RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said, “Our community is looking for jobs so we can achieve the American dream, just like anyone else. It is vital for us to know where the candidates stand on economic, stigma, education, safety, transportation, housing, healthcare, foreign affairs and other issues. The candidates have hugely different ideas about how to deal with the issues. Thus, it’s extremely important to read their full answers so you can understand their vast differences.”
North Dakota has Second Highest Rate of Employment for People with Disabilities
North Dakota is at the top of the board when it comes to the employment of people with disabilities. There are 38,037 North Dakotans with disabilities who are between the ages of 18-64 and just under half of them are employed.. Additionally, there are 2,600 North Dakotans ages 16-20 with disabilities. More than 11,000 North Dakota students have individual education plans (IEPs). However, many North Dakotans with disabilities have not yet received a disability diagnosis they need, and thus are not yet receiving the school accommodations and supports that they need to succeed. Many students who might need support to succeed academically instead find themselves trapped into a lifetime of poverty or flowing down the school to prison pipeline.
Today North Dakota has the opportunity to work hard to improve outcomes in terms of competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities and continue to be a national leader in disability employment. Currently 49.9 percent of working-age North Dakotans with disabilities are employed compared to 82 percent of those without disabilities. While this employment gap between people with and without disabilities is the lowest in the country, there is still much work to be done to improve outcomes for all people with disabilities. View the rankings of all 50 states and compare.
RespectAbility, founded in 2013, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. It has submitted comments for all 50 state’s drafts of the Unified Plan as required under Section 102 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The North Dakota WIOA draft is very well done. It creates a win-win-win strategy and system for vital improvements for North Dakota’s workforce system and its ability to serve people with barriers to work, employers and taxpayers alike. North Dakota already is leading the nation in terms of expanding competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. North Dakota has been blessed with the dedicated leadership of Gov. Dalrymple who has been focused on creating a positive business climate and committed to tapping into the talents offered by individual with disabilities. This climate can continue thanks to WIOA and the upcoming elections.
One of the most important facets of WIOA is that it raises expectations for youth with disabilities and assists states to provide them with the supports they need to ensure success. Indeed, as North Dakota’s Baby Boomers retire and the state’s economy evolves, employers are starting to experience increasing talent shortage. North Dakotans with disabilities are an untapped resource that can be trained to bridge that gap. Indeed, a recent detailed study by the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire shows the 70 percent of working age people with disabilities are striving for work.
Evidence shows that people with disabilities can provide a wonderful solution to companies and other employers that want to succeed. The diverse skills, greater loyalty and higher retention rates of people with disabilities are already starting to meet employer talent needs in increasing numbers around America. With WIOA, North Dakota can benefit from that progress if it truly breaks down silos within government agencies and partners, and lets innovation, based on evidence-based practices, take place.
However, the gap in the labor force participation between people with and without disabilities is still too large around the entire country. This lack of employment for people with disabilities creates poverty, powerlessness, and poor health. Polls and studies show that people with disabilities want the opportunity to have the dignity and independence that jobs provide.
America has 1.2 million youth with disabilities, between the ages of 16 and 20. Each year 300,000 of them age into what should be the workforce, but stigmas and lack of knowledge about the capabilities of people with disabilities means that most do not find employers willing to hire them. Young adults with disabilities in all of these states are hoping to find work. They have high expectations and deserve the opportunity to achieve the American dream. Young people with disabilities may simply need some thoughtful help to transition into the workforce. See data on all 50 states here: State Data.
Remember to Vote
North Dakota bears the unique distinction that it does not require voters to register prior to Election Day. Bring acceptable proof of ID and residency to the polls in order to vote. If you are unable to make it to the polls on Election Day, any North Dakota resident can apply for an absentee ballot and vote by mail. Absentee ballot deadlines vary by county. More information regarding absentee ballots can be found at: Voting by Absentee or Mail Ballot.