Democracy Drumbeat: September 13, 2022
Democracy All-Stars: Shams Al-Badry
Our “Democracy All-Stars” spotlight features champions working on the frontlines to protect our freedom to vote, engage voters and ensure our democracy works for everyone.
This week’s Democracy All-Star is Shams Al-Badry!
Shams Al-Badry is the Civic Engagement Manager at the National Network of Arab American Communities, an institution of ACCESS. Prior to her roles at ACCESS, Shams served as an academic advisor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and taught with the Teach For America program in Kansas City.
Shams was the first Arab-American mayoral appointee to the Lincoln and Lancaster Public Planning Commission. Shams is currently a board member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Detroit and a former board member for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Lincoln, New Leaders Council of Omaha, YWCA of Lincoln, Academic Advising Association of UNL and a subcommittee chair for the Superintendents Facilities Advisory Committee for Lincoln Public Schools. She continues to stay active in her new community of Dearborn through civic engagement and involvement in local and state politics.
What compelled you to get involved in voting rights/systems change/democracy work?
I found myself gravitating towards civic engagement work during my undergraduate career. I had interned at the Nebraska Attorney General's Office and Nebraska Appleseed. Both experiences were instrumental in shifting how I perceived democracy and accessibility in our voting systems. I knew that I wanted to bridge the gaps between grassroots organizing and disenfranchised communities. My professional career has moved from teaching to advising, and now I find myself working on the ground once again with community members and ensuring that voices are amplified through election protection work, and civic engagement as the Civic Engagement Manager at ACCESS.
What democracy issues do you think are most important in your community?
There are many issues that we see on the ground, the main one would be accessibility to election information and education services for disenfranchised communities.
What is one of your proudest moments while working in the democracy space?
One of my proudest moments in the democracy space was driving my mother and her friend to the polling location to cast their first ballots!
Thank you, Shams, for your hard work and dedication to our democracy!
Do you know someone in your community who is a Democracy All-Star? The Democracy For All team is looking for more Democracy All-Stars, and would love to highlight them and their work fighting for democracy for all. You can send a submission for a Democracy All-Star in your community to [email protected].
Disability Voting Rights Week
This week (September 12 - 16) is Disability Voting Rights Week (DVRW). Hosted by the American Association of People with Disabilities’ REV UP Campaign, DVRW is a time for advocates and communities to ensure that the disability community is registered and ready to vote in the upcoming election.
As part of DVRW, the American Association of People with Disabilities has launched "Voting in 2022" -- a hub for disabled voters across the county. We encourage you to visit the site and to share it with those with disabilities.
For more info about DVRW, you can check out this episode of The Heumann Perspective Podcast, which features an interview with Detroit Disability Power’s Executive Director Dessa Cosma.
VOTING IN PERSON
Voters with disabilities have the right to vote privately and independently or get help casting their ballots. This includes:
- The right to an accessible polling place. If a polling place is not accessible, a voter can send someone into the polling place to request curbside voting on their behalf. The poll workers at their polling place will bring a ballot outside for the voter.
- The right to an accessible voting machine or “Voter Assist Terminal.” Different counties use different brands of Voter Assist Terminals (VATs). Voters can find out which brand their county uses here. Voters can then learn how to use that particular VAT before heading to the polls by viewing the corresponding resource below:
- Dominion VAT: Video or Text Description with photos
- Hart VAT: Video or Text Description with photos
- ES&S VAT: Video or Text Description with photos
- The right to in-person assistance from any person that the voter chooses, except their employer, an agent of their employer, or an officer or agent of their union.
VOTING FROM HOME
For voters with disabilities, the ability to vote by absentee ballot is especially important. A few things to remember:
- A large print absentee ballot application is available on MI.gov/vote. Remember - voters can apply now for their ballot for the November general election.
- For those with print disabilities, accessible electronic absentee ballots are also available. Voters can apply for an accessible electronic absentee ballot online at the Michigan Voter Information Center.
- If a voter receives assistance marking their ballot, the assisting person must sign where indicated on the ballot return envelope.
- If a voter is unable to sign their absentee ballot return envelope, they may use their mark or signature stamp. An absentee ballot will not be counted unless the voter’s signature on the ballot envelope sufficiently agrees with the signature in the voter’s registration record. For registered voters who will use their mark or a signature stamp on their absentee ballot for the first time, we recommend submitting a new voter registration form with their mark or signature stamp.
Spirit of Democracy
The Spirit of Democracy is strong! We will be celebrating the people who help make it that way! Join us for the Spirit of Democracy event at the Spirit of Detroit on September 29 at 5:30 PM.
Join Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, All Voting Is Local, (partners, partners) for an evening of community building and celebrating everyday people doing their part to make our democracy strong. More information can be found on the Facebook event page.
Democracy Actions You Can Take
Apply for your absentee ballot for the November 8th General Election:
- Voters with a current Michigan driver's license or state ID can complete their application online at michigan.gov/vote.
- Alternatively, voters can print and submit an application for an absentee ballot from michigan.gov/vote or they can call their city or township clerk and ask that an application be mailed to them.
- Voters may also use any application for an absentee ballot provided to them by the Secretary of State, their clerk, a political party, or another organization.
Election Season in Michigan - Key Dates
With election season underway, here are a few important dates to keep in mind as elections approach and folks begin making their plans to vote over the next several months:
- August 25, 2022: Applications available for absentee ballots
- September 24, 2022: Clerks electronically transmit or mail (as requested) an absent voter ballot to uniformed services or overseas voters who applied for an absent voter ballot 45 days or more before the election
- September 29, 2022: In-Person Absentee Voting Begins - Absent voter ballots must be available for issuance to voters
- October 7, 2022: Deadline for clerks to set satellite polling locations, dates, and times
- October 24, 2022: Last day to register in any manner other than in-person with the local clerk for the November general election
- November 8, 2022: Statewide general election
Ahead of the November general election, it is important to be aware of all of the voting options available to you and to make a plan about how you are going to vote. Whether it be absentee ballots, voting in-person ahead of Election Day, or casting your ballot at a satellite polling location or secure drop box in your community, Michigan voters have an array of accessible voting options to choose from. Once you make your voting plan, help your friends and family make their own plans! Our democracy functions best when everyone can make their voices heard.
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Thanks for reading and have a great week!