Milwaukee, Wisconsin — August 2020
North side Milwaukee
The first time Danita Jackson asked her son Jafari Jackson to help her vote, he was only 9. They didn’t have accessible voting machines at the time, so Jafari would make sure his mother, who is blind, filled out her ballot according to her wishes.
“I wanted to show him by example the importance of voting,” Jackson said.
Today, she said she views every election as an opportunity to make sure that accessibility laws are being followed. “If people don’t use the accessible machines, it’s not going to seem like there’s much of a need for it,” she said.
During the state’s local primary in August, she had to share a pair of unsanitized headphones with another voter, which she said felt like an unnecessary risk during a pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans has some form of disability. Through her job at the nonprofit Disability Rights Wisconsin, Jackson advocates for other people with disabilities, many of whom are qualified to vote but are not registered.
Jackson has no choice but to vote in person in November because Wisconsin does not provide an alternative to printed mail-in ballots. Her son is grown and lives in Phoenix, so “I have to ask someone to risk their lives to go vote with me,” she said. “My best friend is being very nice, but I’d have to understand if she didn’t want to do it.”
The coronavirus pandemic will worsen several pre-existing barriers to voting for people of color, the disabled, and low-income communities in Milwaukee.
Voting rights organizers are working to sign up new voters and help others navigate policies -- like strict voter ID laws and witness requirements for absentee ballots -- that discourage election participation.
CREDIT: Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times