To ask the hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, what assessment the Electoral Commission has made of the compliance with its guidelines of the ballot papers for the (a) referendum on the alternative vote and (b) elections to the Scottish Parliament in 2010 in respect of those with visual impairments.
The Electoral Commission has informed me that it published design guidance ('Making your mark') for policy-makers aimed at improving the usability and accessibility of voter materials, including ballot papers, in October 2009. The "Making your mark" guidance is aimed at addressing a wide range of voters' needs, including the needs of voters with visual impairments, and was developed with input from accessibility and disability awareness groups including the RNIB.
The Commission highlighted in its briefing for parliamentarians at second reading of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill its concern that the prescribed forms for voters, including the ballot paper for the proposed referendum on changing the voting system for UK parliamentary elections, had not been designed in accordance with the "Making your mark" guidance. The Bill has since been amended to allow the Chief Counting Officer to specify changes to certain forms to improve the accessibility of the voting process, but this would not extend to the design of the ballot paper.
The Commission has further informed me that it recommended, in response to the UK Government's consultation on the draft Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) Order 2010, that the design of the ballot paper should be revised in line with its "Making your mark" guidance and user-tested to ensure it could be easily understood by the electorate.