Voting Methods: Disability Aids

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities written question – answered on 28th 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, what assessment he has made of the effect of provisions in the Elections Bill on supporting (a) blind and partially sighted people and (b) people with other disabilities.

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 including those who have sight loss.

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.

This change has arisen following the Government's Call for Evidence on the Access to Elections. Responses from disabled people and organisations that represent their interests made clear that the current approach of requiring Returning Officers to solely provide at the polling station, a prescribed device for voters with sight loss, was not the best approach to meet the varied needs of disabled electors. Our new proposals will seek to meet those needs.

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