Blind and Partially Sighted Voters continue to face extensive challenges in aspects of voter registration, polling day operations and having equal access to a secret ballot as other voters.
We believe the various court cases that have stated that access for blind and partially sighted voters is ‘‘a parody of the electoral process”.
The secret ballot has been a required aspect of the UK’s electoral system since the 1872 Ballot Act. Our focus groups and survey of blind and partially sighted voters in London show that most do not believe they have a secret ballot. This is an unacceptable situation and one which needs to be remedied by those presently legislating through the Electoral Integrity Bill.
Whilst advanced methods of affording privacy are available, most partially sighted voters would be assisted with better lighting conditions and better deployment of the present equipment available in polling stations. These improvements can already be done by electoral administrators across the UK.
However, blind and partially sighted voters also need other aids to be able to fully participate on an equal basis as sighted voters. We would strongly recommend that the UK Cabinet Office, the Electoral Commission, and the devolved administrations identify and implement novel and effective methods to allow blind and partially sighted voters their franchise in line with our recommendations.
- Staff should undergo specific and detailed training of how to assist blind and partially sighted voters in the polling station.
- The Tactile Voting Device and Large Print Ballot Paper should both be located on the polling staffs’ desk so blind and partially sighted voters are made aware of their presence, and these should be proactively offered to voters when appropriate.
- Lighting conditions in polling booths must improve and be consistently above the 100 LUX minimum to assure defined perception of detail for voters to cast their vote. We recommend councils check lighting levels in proposed polling stations as part of their regular reviews of polling places, generally conducted before every major election.
- Large Print ballot papers should also be displayed in disabled access polling booths as well as under Recommendation 2.
- Public pilot trials should be conducted to assess the effectiveness of a range of ameliorations such as increased lighting, large print ballot papers in polling booths, telephone services to aid voting and wider use of magnifying glasses already placed in polling booths.