Digital democracy think-tank, WebRoots Democracy, and the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC) are calling on all political parties to commit to introducing an online voting option in elections to enable a modern, accessible method of voting for people with vision impairments.
Research has shown that as many as 69% of vision-impaired voters in the UK are unable to vote in secret and independent of assistance, and the RSBC estimated that more than 1.3 million were prevented from voting in secret in the 2015 General Election. Many voters with vision impairments currently depend on others to cast their vote for them in fear of accidentally spoiling their ballot.
WebRoots Democracy and the RSBC are undertaking research in advance of the upcoming election to understand how technology can reduce the barriers to democratic participation for vision impaired voters. In addition to accessibility issues with voting itself, vision impaired voters also face challenges in finding out information about their local candidates and as well as the location of their polling station.
Previous findings by WebRoots Democracy has found that online voting could also boost voter turnout amongst the general population. A survey they commissioned last year showed that online voting could have boosted youth voter turnout by 1.2 million in the EU referendum.
Chief Executive of WebRoots Democracy, Areeq Chowdhury, 24, said:
“In a true democracy, everyone would have the right to independently cast their vote. However, this simply isn’t the case in the UK. Voters are being left out of democracy by an analogue attitude towards elections. Digital technology exists to enable vision impaired voters to independently participate in elections, and it’s high time we adopted it for this critical purpose. Australia has implemented online voting for vision impaired voters, why can’t we do it here in the UK?”
Law graduate Ruksana Khanum from the Royal Society for Blind Children’s Youth Forum is speaking out on the issue:
“With the General Election fast approaching, I have to plan ahead to find someone who will help me vote. That person must be someone I trust and preferably of the same political views as me, as I can’t be sure which box they cross. Once again, I’m unable to cast my vote independently and in private, which makes me feel like my vote is of no real consequence to politicians.”
WebRoots Democracy and the RSBC will be publishing the results of their survey in a report to be published in the beginning of June prior to the upcoming General Election. The report will explore democratic accessibility issues for voters with vision impairments and other disabilities.