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Elections Bill bad news for Disabled voters

22 September 2021

The Elections Bill currently going through Parliament has the potential to make voting even more difficult for Disabled people. The highly contested bill had its second reading at the beginning of the month and is even proving controversial amongst senior Conservative party figures.

The Bill, which aims to fix the problem of fraud which many critics argue doesn’t exist, seeks to make photo ID mandatory for voters, requiring the presentation of a passport, driving licence, concessionary travel card or Blue Badge.

The Cabinet Office’s own research shows nearly half of people without photo ID would be unlikely to apply for a free voter card. Furthermore, during a trial of voter ID across 10 councils in 2019, 740 people were turned away for not having correct identification. This number significantly exceeds the number that have ever been accused of voter impersonation.

Worryingly the Bill also removes provisions in the Representation of the People Act 1983 relating to “prescribed equipment” such as tactile voting devices, which should be held and offered by all polling stations. Instead, the Bill says that reasonable adjustments should be made, allowing the potential for differing practices and equipment at each polling station. 

A positive element of the Bill is that it will allow Disabled people, who want personal assistance to vote, to choose who provides such support.

In her evidence to the Elections Bill Committee, Fazilet Hadi, DR UK Head of Policy, outlined the international and domestic laws requiring equality of participation in the electoral process by Disabled people.

Fazilet highlighted that demanding photo ID and removing rules on prescribed equipment would have the effect of disenfranchising Disabled voters.

You can view Fazilet’s evidence here.