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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Voting in elections for disabled voters

Voting in local and general elections will be accessible to you. You can choose to vote at a polling station or in another way (for example by post). Find out more about voting stations, proxy voting and alternative voting formats such as tactile voting devices.

Polling stations and local information

Under the Equality Act 2010, service providers are legally obliged to make any adjustment that it is reasonable for them to make. They have to make reasonable adjustments to their procedures and premises. They also have to do what is reasonable to provide aids, to help disabled people to access the service. This legislation covers polling stations.     

You can find out about the voting process and your local polling station by contacting your local authority, or local council.

Local councils should provide information about polling stations, including details about:

  • physical access - disabled parking spaces and entrance ramps
  • low-level polling booths
  • equipment such as magnifying glasses for voters with a visual impairment

This information is often available on the council's website. They should also have a helpline and an email address you can write to for more information.

Local disability groups may also be able to give advice and help.

If you need help on polling day, you can ask the staff to mark your ballot paper for you. Alternatively, you can bring a family member or a person who can vote at the election to mark it for you.

Tactile voting devices for blind or visually impaired people

All polling stations must provide a tactile voting device and at least one large print display version of the ballot paper. This makes it easier to vote without another person's help if you're blind or visually impaired.

You can ask polling station staff to read the list of candidates and their details to you.

How the devices work

The voting device is fixed to the ballot paper.

Flaps on the device cover each of the boxes on the ballot paper in which the vote is marked. The number that corresponds to the box covered by a particular flap is embossed in black on the flap's surface. The number shows up well against the white background of the ballot paper and is also raised so it can be identified by touch.

To cast your vote, you lift the relevant flap to reveal the box on the ballot paper and make your mark. You can then remove the device from the ballot paper, fold the ballot paper and place it in the ballot box without help.

Ways to vote

If you find it difficult to get to your polling station, you can vote in a different way.

Postal voting

Postal voting is open to everyone and you don't have to give a reason to vote by post. You must apply to vote by post well in advance of the election. You can download a postal vote application form and find more information about postal voting on the 'About My Vote' website. In Northern Ireland you need to provide a reason to apply for a postal vote. You can find out about postal voting in Northern Ireland by visiting the website for the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland.

Voting by proxy

If you can't vote in person, you can apply to vote by proxy. This means that you appoint someone else to act as proxy to vote on your behalf. Contact your electoral registration office at your local council for an application form. You can find details of your electoral registration office and more information about voting by proxy on the 'About My Vote' website.

Power of attorney and voting

A 'power of attorney' is where a person gives one or more people - the attorney(s) - the legal right to manage their affairs. This is because they are incapable of doing so themselves. This might be to sign cheques or withdraw money from a savings account for them.

A power of attorney does not extend to the electoral process. An attorney has no powers to vote on behalf of another person, unless they have been appointed proxy on a form signed by the person.

Voting information in alternative formats

The Electoral Commission website 'About My Vote' contains information which can be downloaded in large print and various language formats and as audio files. The leaflets include:

  • an easy guide to voting
  • registering to vote
  • applying for a postal vote

Braille versions are available from the electoral registration office at your local council.

'Easy read' voting information

The Electoral Commission runs a website called 'Do politics'. There are easy read booklets you can download about voting in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. One of its aims is to look at how to modernising the electoral process, including how to make voting more accessible to disabled people. Its website contains lots of information about elections and the democratic process, including information with particular relevance to disabled people.

More information

There is general information about voting, elections and political parties in the government, citizens and rights section of Directgov.

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