UK Government launches consultation on access to elections for disabled voters

The UK Government has launched a call for evidence asking for views on how people with disabilities experience registering to vote and voting itself.

In partnership with the members of the Cabinet Office Accessibility Working Group, which includes Mencap, Mind, RNIB, Scope, the NHS, the Association of Electoral Administrators, and the Electoral Commission, the Government will review the evidence it receives and produce a report of key findings and recommendations.

The consultation document asks for the experience of disabled people in participating in elections as well as questions on the support provided to disabled people at elections, and the support provided by electoral administrators. Included amongst these is a question asking what can be done “to make the process of voting easier” and what can be done to “dismantle barriers to improve the voting experience of disabled people.”

Many voters with disabilities are unable to access their human right to cast an independent, secret ballot at elections.

WebRoots Democracy’s Inclusive Voting report published in June called for pilots of online voting as a means to prevent breaching disabled voters’ human right to cast an independent, secret ballot. The report built upon a policy roundtable held at London City Hall, in May, 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 made 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.

A panel discussion around the report was subsequently held in the House of Commons with Cat Smith MP (Labour), Baroness Sal Brinton (Liberal Democrats), and Jonathan Bartley (Green Party).

A report published by the Royal National Institute for Blind People in August also called for the introduction of online voting after a survey they conducted found 54% of vision-impaired voters in favour of the reform.

The Government’s consultation can be accessed here and is open until the 14th of November 2017.

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