Katy Knock, Electoral Commission Policy Manager
I am very excited that last week we published our report – ‘Elections for everyone’.
It has been a while since we have heard about the experiences of people with disabilities when they register to vote and cast their vote, so I am glad that we are able to reflect their views today based on their experience of the general election held on 8 June.
I would like to thank everyone who responded to our questionnaire and told us about their experience. This report could not have been written without you.
I am also pleased that we are able to feed into the Minister’s, Chris Skidmore MP, Access to Elections call for evidence, using first-hand experience of people with disabilities.
Registering to vote and voting should be a good experience for everyone. But it isn’t.
Some people with a disability told us that they do not have the confidence to register to vote and cast their vote. Others said they have many obstacles to overcome so that they can cast their vote.
We were told that election forms are not always easy to read or understand so that people know what they have to do: that they use complicated and unfamiliar words, jargon and small print.
We also heard that some people had not been able to vote at their polling station as they could not get in or they were turned away. This should not happen.
We must not forget that accessibility is not just about getting into the polling station and not only about people with a ‘visible’ disability. People with different disabilities faced a number of barriers once they were inside. They said it:
- was small and hard to move around
- was too noisy and there were too many people which made them feel anxious
- that staff did not know about the tactile voting device or if they did they did not know how to use it
- that people could see how they voted so they were unable to vote in secret
Some people also told us that they did not know that they that they could take someone with them to the polling station to help them or that polling station staff could help them.
We asked people to tell us what they thought about how parties and candidates tell people about what they stand for.
We were told that the information they get from candidates and political parties is not always easy to read or to understand. They also said they would like to get information earlier because it gives them longer to look at it and decide who to vote for.
Although parties published their manifestos in good time before the general election, their easy read versions were not always available until later and often very close to Election Day.
We have listened to the views of people with disabilities. There are changes that we can all make to tackle the barriers that exist.
The Government should:
- make changes to election forms so they can be easily understood
- look at different ways that people with disabilities can vote so they have greater flexibility and choice
- change the law so that people with disabilities have more choice about who they can take to the polling station with them
Political parties and candidates should:
- make sure the information they send is easy to read
- make sure they publish easy read manifestos at the same time so people with a disability have the same time as everyone else to understand what the parties stand for and make an informed decision
- make sure they send information in good time so that people have time to read it.
People running elections should:
- look at ways they can make registering to vote and voting more accessible
- look to make their helpline more helpful
- make sure they are ready to support anyone if they ask for help to vote
Carers and support workers need to know:
- people with disabilities can vote
- they can support the people they care for to register to vote and vote
The Commission will:
- continue to work with the Government and disability organisations to see what can be done to make registering to vote and voting accessible for everyone
- update the information we give to people running elections and will talk to accessibility groups about what should be in it.
Everyone should be able to register to vote and cast their vote. I look forward to continuing to work with the Government, disability organisations and electoral administrators to put some of these measures in place to ensure that elections are for everyone.