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Government response to the call for evidence on access to elections

30 August 2018

On Tuesday 5 September 2017, the Minister for the Constitution launched a Call for Evidence, asking for views on how people with disabilities experience registering to vote and voting itself.

Go to consultation and government response

256 responses were received. The responses were in the main from:

  • those electors with learning disabilities;
  • those affected by mental illness;
  • wheelchair users; and
  • those affected by sight loss.

Those electors declaring a learning disability formed the majority of the respondents; 106, followed by those declaring a mental illness.

The Government has now responded to this consultation

List of actions to be taken forward

The Government identified the following actions to improve the accessibility of future elections from the received evidence to the Call for Evidence, and will work with the Accessibility of Elections Group to determine how best they can be taken forward for polls reserved to the UK Government. It will be for the devolved administrations to consider if the changes should apply to those polls that are devolved.

Action 1: Returning Officers should ensure effective training of polling station staff and the use of checklists developed in conjunction with national and / or local disabled persons groups to identify issues from the viewpoint of disabled people.

Action 2: The Accessibility Working Group to review the Electoral Commission’s guidance on the setting of polling districts and polling places and to identify how good practice examples can be included on how local interaction with organisations representing disabled people can be more effectively used to ensure polling places are accessible.

Action 3: The Accessibility Working Group to consider, in the first instance, what outreach services could be provided to support individuals and residents of care homes to participate in elections.

Action 4: Returning Officers to consider equipment at polling stations with reference to use by people with manual dexterity issues and ensure the availability of full size writing implements for those who may need them.

Action 5: The Government to continue to consider the needs of disabled people when implementing changes to election or electoral registration processes and how these areas may be further developed to support disabled people, including through the provision of Easy Read guidance.

Action 6: The Accessibility Working Group to consider the viability of piloting additionally sending out the information included on poll cards by electronic means to disabled people who request this service, to assess its usefulness and identify any security issues

Action 7: The Accessibility Working Group to promote the use of existing Electoral Commission guidance to ensure that large print ballot papers are available and can be taken into the voting booth by people who need them.

Action 8: The Accessibility Working Group to consider whether ‘practice’ ballot papers could be made available to disabled people in advance of polling day and support this with guidance and / or legislation if required.

Action 9: Returning Officers and relevant local authority staff should ensure that all polling station staff know how the Tactile Voting Device (TVD) works and ensure it is readily offered to those who need it. Disabled Persons Organisations including those supporting people with sight loss should also ensure that awareness is promoted.

Action 10: The Government to consider, with the Electoral Commission and the Accessibility Working Group, what improvements can be made to the existing arrangements concerning the support provided to voters with sight loss in polling stations and look to make the necessary legislative changes when a suitable opportunity arises.

Action 11: The Accessibility Working Group should engage with political parties to discuss how information on parties, candidates and their policies can be made more readily available to disabled people.

Action 12: The Accessibility Working Group to consider how awareness of disabled peoples’ right to vote can be improved, through consulting with delivery partners including those within the care and medical sector as to how this could be achieved.

Action 13: The Government to consider if inclusion of awareness of voting rights in the Care Quality Commission assessment is practicable and of value and, if so, how it may be incorporated.

Action 14: The Government should reconsider the law regarding companions to further ensure carers and family members are able to support disabled people.

Action 15: The Electoral Commission and other relevant organisations should consider how training of staff in polling stations may be focused to address the needs of disabled people.

Action 16: The Electoral Commission should consider whether it should include more specific requirements in its performance standards in relation to support for disabled voters in polling stations.

Action 17: The Accessibility Working Group should consider options to make information around postal voting and proxy voting more accessible to disabled people and those with serious health issues.