The UK is getting ready for its first Christmas General Election since 1923. Following the June 2017 election, Thomas Pocklington Trust and RNIB published a report on the experiences of blind and partially sighted people who voted in the 2015 General Election, 2016’s London Mayoral election and Referendum and the 2017 General Election. The report showed 74% of blind and partially sighted people felt either partially or totally unable to vote in secret and without assistance. 54% felt that the voting was inaccessible and that new accessible ways to vote are needed – such as telephone, electronic and online voting.
As the UK readies itself for another trip to the polls, we’ve put together a short list of recommendations for Returning Officers and polling station staff to consider when preparing for the election on 12 December.
Frustratingly, for many blind and partially sighted people in the capital, voting – either by post or at the polling station – remains fundamentally inaccessible and rarely private, underlining the need for wholesale change to the voting system.
These simple recommendations are designed to ensure polling staff are better aware of the needs of the blind and partially sighted electorate and understand what they can do to help.
Making voting more accessible for blind and partially sighted people
- Large print ballot papers – Large print copies of the ballot paper should be available in every polling station, and people voting should be free to take them into the booth with them.
- Tactile Voting Device – Does your polling station have a tactile voting device (TVD)? This device helps blind and partially sighted people vote more independently. Do your polling staff know how to use it? Please make sure the TVD is available on voting day.
- Help with voting – Returning officers are allowed to help blind and partially sighted constituents cast their vote; likewise, constituents can bring a companion to help them. Please make sure voters know they can ask for your help.
- Lighting – A bit of extra light in the polling booth can make a big difference for partially sighted voters. Consider lighting at least one booth brightly to help constituents with partial sight see the ballot paper better.
We would ask all Returning Officers to share these recommendations with staff who will be working at the voting stations.