Julian Ware-Lane calls on the council to ensure access for disabled voters at the general election

Southend West Labour election candidate Julian Ware-Lane has written to the chief executive of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council to ask what steps are being taken to ensure disabled voters are able to participate in the general election and exercise their right to vote.

Local authorities have a duty to ensure polling stations do not disadvantage disabled voters. A range of measures is also available to support disabled voters, including large print versions of ballot papers and tactile voting devices. Election staff should be properly trained to meet the needs of disabled voters

Julian has asked Southend-on-Sea council for a report on access to polling stations in Southend West constituency and what steps are being taken to inform disabled people of the different ways they can exercise their vote.

Julian said: “Ensuring disabled people are able to exercise their vote is an essential part of a healthy democracy and fundamental to their rights. The Electoral Commission has issued guidance on making registration and voting accessible to disabled people. I’ve written to Southend-on-Sea council to ask for assurance that every disabled voter in Southend West constituency will be able to get to a polling station and get the assistance they need if they want to vote in person, and to have information about alternative voting methods, such as by proxy or post.

“Disabled voters also need information about how to register to vote. If you want to register, or check whether you’re on the register, contact Southend-on-Sea Borough Council (01702 2150000) – whether you’re a disabled voter or not.”

Notes:

Local authorities have to take proactive steps to ensure that polling stations don’t disadvantage disabled people. Under the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013, every local authority is required to carry out an audit of its polling places by 31 January 2015. In reviewing its polling places, the Council is required to consider any representations from local residents in its area, including any issues regarding access to premises or facilities for persons with disabilities.

All voters have a right to vote independently and in secret. A person who is registered to vote or who has been officially appointed as a proxy voter cannot be refused a ballot paper or the opportunity to vote on the grounds of mental or physical incapacity.

Polling station staff must ensure that disabled voters are not offered a lower standard of service than other voters and should be able to explain what assistance is available to disabled voters wishing to vote in person at a polling station.

Disabled voters are also entitled to:

The right to request assistance to mark the ballot paper

Disabled voters may request the assistance of the Presiding Officer to mark the ballot paper for them. Alternatively, they can bring someone with them to help them vote (this person must be an immediate family member over 18 years old or a qualified elector).

Tactile voting device

This is a plastic device that is fixed onto the ballot paper so visually impaired people or those with limited dexterity can mark their ballot paper in secret.

Large-print version of the ballot paper

A large-print version of the ballot paper should be clearly displayed inside the polling station and a copy can be given to voters to take with them into the polling booth. A voter can’t vote on the large-print version, but it can be used for reference.

Assistance to electors unable to gain access to the polling station

It is the responsibility of the relevant council to designate polling places within their area and to keep these under review. In designating polling places, the council must have regard to accessibility for disabled voters. If an elector is unable to enter the polling station because of physical disability, the Presiding Officer may take the ballot paper to the elector.

The electoral commission guidance can be viewed at www.electoralcommisison.org.uk

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One Response to Julian Ware-Lane calls on the council to ensure access for disabled voters at the general election

  1. westboroeye says:

    No ballot is secret, the number on your ballot paper is entered against your name by the officials at the desk. I object to this every time I vote and they always have the stock answer which I consider a cop out. I have no problem declaring I voteTory in general elections and locally for the candidate I think may do most for me and my neighbours irespective of the party if any.

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