Michael Sack wants everyone to get out and vote, or stay home and vote. He just wants them to vote. But Sack realizes that this foremost civic duty is easier for some than for others. Sack, 30, has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair. Now working remotely as a data entry specialist for Rise Incorporated, Sack recently launched a Facebook page with information about voting specifically directed at others with disabilities. Sack, who lives in south Minneapolis, talks about his new effort — which he humorously calls “Roll to the Polls” — as well as what barriers still exist for people with disabilities and what aspects of our new normal he hopes continue in post-coronavirus elections.
Q: “People with disabilities” is a broad term. How do you define it?
A: Those with physical, cognitive, and mental health disabilities, including those who are sight impaired.
Q: You’ve been advocating for citizens with disabilities for 10 years. Tell us about some of your efforts.
A: Since Target Field opened, I have co-written a blog titled “Two Men On,” that is partly about baseball and disability issues. When Target Field first opened I, along with my blog partner, Sam Graves, toured the ballpark and documented the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) features. We were both really impressed with its accessibility features, including 14 public elevators and more than 700 ADA seats with spectacular views; plus, the concession stands were at an appropriate height for wheelchair users. In 2011, I was awarded the “Transition Student of the Year” by Metropolitan Center for Independent Living after questioning a Minneapolis Community and Technical College disability policy.
Q: When did you decide to create your Disability Awareness With Voting Facebook page and why?
A: I started volunteering for the Emma Greenman for Minnesota House campaign at the beginning of September. The campaign wanted me to write an article about why it was so important that individuals with disabilities vote in this year’s election and how they can vote. I suggested making a Facebook page to inform the public about voting accessibility and they agreed!
Q: But your Facebook page is nonpartisan, yes?
A: The page is run in conjunction with a Democratic candidate but all the voting information is nonpartisan: (http://facebook.com/disabilityvoting/)
Q: What about your fun “Roll to the Polls” slogan?
A: Roll to the Polls was just a clever name I came up with to promote this. I actually tried to name the Facebook page this, but Facebook wouldn’t let me.
Q: Is your effort mostly to help people understand how to vote by mail?
A: Yes, for the most part. But it’s also to provide people with useful information and to answer any questions they may have. For example, I just informed people that they could take Metro Mobility to the polls. I have one post coming up about what will be on the ballot.
Q: Might absentee and vote-by-mail options be helpful for people with disabilities, making it easier to vote?
A: Mail-in voting is a good thing, as long as voters can check online to see if their ballot has been counted.
Q: What are voting barriers that still exist for people with disabilities?
A: I recently read an article in the New York Times that addressed this. Some people are confined to their homes; others face inaccessible polling locations. I’ve heard that not every voting location has an automark ballot-marking machine, which is a device that allows voters who are visually impaired or who have dexterity problems to vote their ballot independently.
Q: For these reasons and more, do you think that people with disabilities might believe their voices don’t matter?
A: I do believe that they think that their voices matter, but getting out and voting is the major obstacle. I hope by providing them with useful information, they will be more comfortable voting in the most important election of our lifetime, with the future of disability rights essentially on the ballot.
Q: You’re also encouraging voting in a 21st century social-media way. Say more about that.
A: Yes, we’re encouraging followers to take a photograph or video of themselves voting, and to share it on social media with the hashtag #VoteWithUs.
Q: Tell us about the agent pickup service, of which I was unaware.
A: According to the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, in special situations, you may ask an “agent” to pick up and return an absentee ballot for you. To qualify, you must live in a nursing home, assisted living facility, residential treatment center, group home, battered women’s shelter or be hospitalized, or unable to go the polling place due to incapacitating health reasons or disability. Your agent must be at least 18 years old, have a pre-existing relationship with you and cannot be a candidate.
Q: Do you hope vote by mail continues after this election cycle is over?
A: I feel voting by mail, amplified by the pandemic, is an easy option. For me, though, I prefer going to my polling location because I can vote myself with minimal assistance using the automark ballot-marking machine. But, yes, I do believe that vote by mail should continue so that all people who want to vote can.