All voters have a right to vote independently and in secret and local authorities in Great Britain have been told they must take proactive steps to ensure that polling stations don't disadvantage disabled people.
If you have any problems on election day, you should call your local authority to try to resolve this. You can also call the Electoral Commission on 0333 103 1928 or the Welsh language line on 0333 103 1929 for further guidance.
The role of the Electoral Commission (wording adapted from their website) is to monitor elections and referendums to make sure they are fair and to promote public confidence in the democratic process.
Another part of their role is to make sure that elections are accessible to everyone with them stating ‘We believe that anyone eligible to vote should be able to do so’. They have been working with charities such as Mencap and RNIB to ensure this occurs. Further information about the Electoral Commission is available at: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter.
The BBC have a straightforward guide on their website explaining a bit more about how our election process works: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-49826655
The Electoral Commission have a factsheet for disabled voters (available on the Hammersmith and Fulham council website - https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/councillors-and-democracy/elections/help-disabled-voters).
It contains the following information:
- Local authorities now have to take proactive steps to ensure that polling stations don't disadvantage disabled people.
- All voters have a right to vote independently and in secret. A person who is registered to vote or who has been officially appointed as a proxy voter cannot be refused a ballot paper or the opportunity to vote on the grounds of mental or physical incapacity.
- Polling station staff must ensure that disabled voters are not offered a lower standard of service than other voters and should be able to explain what assistance is available to disabled voters wishing to vote in person at a polling station.
Disabled voters are also entitled to:
- The right to request assistance to mark the ballot paper - Disabled voters may request the assistance of the Presiding Officer to mark the ballot paper for them. Alternatively, they can bring someone with them to help them vote (this person must be an immediate family member over 18 years old or a qualified elector).
- Tactile voting device - This is a plastic device that is fixed onto the ballot paper so visually impaired people or those with limited dexterity can mark their ballot paper in secret.
- Large-print version of the ballot paper - A large-print version of the ballot paper should be clearly displayed inside the polling station and a copy can be given to voters to take with them into the polling booth. A voter can’t vote on the large-print version, but it can be used for reference.
- Assistance to electors unable to gain access to the polling station - It is the responsibility of the relevant council to designate polling places [decide the places where people can vote] within their area and to keep these under review. In designating polling places, the council must have regard to accessibility for disabled voters. If an elector is unable to enter the polling station because of physical disability, the Presiding Officer may take the ballot paper to the elector.
The information on the Gov.uk website states:
If you’re disabled, your local Electoral Registration Office can tell you about:
- physical access, for example wheelchair ramps and disabled parking spaces
- low-level polling booths
- equipment for voters with a visual impairment
For further information, visit https://www.gov.uk/voting-in-the-uk
The RNIB have been working with the government and the Electoral Commission, as voting for blind and partially sighted people remains unsatisfactory. RNIB have worked with the Electoral Commission to develop new resources for election staff, including an update to their training guides, a checklist of what should be in every polling station before it opens, and also a training video.
Videos about accessible voting are on the gov.uk website and are being used as guidance for staff - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/accessible-voting-for-all
The National Survivor User Network (NSUN) have done a useful article entitled ‘What match is there between political parties’ election manifestos and NSUN’s 2019 manifesto? A bird’s eye’. Details of this can be found via the following link: https://www.nsun.org.uk/news/match-between-party-political-manifestos-and-nsun-manifesto
Courtesy of Shaping Our Lives