Visual Impairment: Voting Methods

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities written question – answered on 23rd September 2021.

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Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, with reference to the Elections Bill, what assessment his Department has made of the potential impact on a blind or partially sighted voter of a decision by a Returning Officer that a tactile voting device is not reasonable to provide in a polling station.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister for Equalities, Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (jointly with Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

It is integral to our democracy that everybody is able to make their voice heard and that elections are accessible for all those eligible to vote.

This is why, for the first time in electoral law, through the Elections Bill, we are putting in place a requirement for Returning Officers to consider the needs of all disabled voters when providing equipment for polling stations.

This will allow Returning Officers to tailor the package of equipment they offer to their voters to take into account developments in equipment and technology, in order to best meet the needs of people with disabilities. The tactile voting device is a well-established element of the support in place for voters with disabilities and Returning Officers will be well-placed to understand how it can be deployed to best effect to support voters in their areas.

Clear guidance will be issued to Returning Officers by the Electoral Commission, which will be produced in partnership with the Government's expert Accessibility of Elections Working Group, which includes a wide range of stakeholders such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

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