Online voting “necessary” to prevent breach of disabled voters’ human rights

Inclusive Voting imageIntroducing an online voting option in elections is a “necessary” reform in order to prevent a breach of disabled voters’ human rights, according to a new report ‘Inclusive Voting’ published today. The report, produced by digital democracy think tank, WebRoots Democracy, brings together voices of various UK disability organisations and argues that voters with vision impairments and disabilities will be denied their right to a secret ballot in the upcoming snap General Election.

The report focuses on general barriers to access in elections for voters with vision impairments and disabilities, including barriers to voter registration, information on party policies, and barriers to voting. The 7,500 word document builds upon a policy roundtable held at London City Hall, on Friday 26 May 2017, with several disability organisations, as well as existing research and new data. It includes forewords from Liberal Democrat President, Baroness Sal Brinton, and former Deputy Mayor of London, Nicky Gavron AM.

Inclusive Voting makes seven recommendations which include pilots of online voting in elections, and for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to explore whether or not the existing voting system is in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The report argues that the existing methods of voting in the UK block many disabled and vision impaired voters from casting a secret ballot, and that the UK should follow countries such as Australia and Estonia by introducing an online voting option.

human rights act 1998
The right to a secret ballot is enshrined in the UK Human Rights Act 1998, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The publication comes just three days before the UK heads to the polls for the 2017 General Election.

Report author, and Chief Executive of WebRoots Democracy, Areeq Chowdhury said:

“The problems facing disabled and vision impaired voters is far greater than I imagined. It should be a source of embarrassment for successive Governments that such problems persist in 2017. For the UK to be a truly inclusive democracy, it is necessary for the next Government to address the problems outlined in this report and recognise that digital democracy has a critical role to play in enabling accessible elections. It is a human right for citizens to be able to cast a secret and independent vote, however it is highly questionable whether voters with vision impairments and other disabilities have access to that right.”

Writing in the foreword of the report, Baroness Sal Brinton said:

“It is vital that we approach our democracy as we approach our devices. They should both be accessible, user-friendly, and kept up-to-date with the times in which we live. A cornerstone of our electoral system is that voters should be able to vote independently and in secret. This simply is not the case for many voters with vision impairments and disabilities.”

Nicky Gavron AM said:

“Any one of us can obtain a disability at any point in our lives, so it is critical that we speak up and speak out about deficiencies in our democracy that make it difficult for us to participate. The rise in digital technology has brought wonders for people with vision impairments and disabilities. It has broken down barriers to everyday tasks and enabled greater independence. It is only right that we now look at how best we can harness digital technology to break down barriers in our democracy.”

Download and read the Inclusive Voting report here.
Listen to the audio version here.
Read the large print version here.
Download the text-only version here.

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