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Voting in elections for disabled voters

Voting in local and general elections should be accessible to you, whether you choose to vote at a polling station or in another way (for example by post).

Polling stations and local information

Under the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), service providers are legally obliged to make any 'reasonable' physical adjustments to their premises to make them accessible to disabled people. 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 apply to the presiding officer asking them to mark your ballot paper for you. Alternatively, they should allow you to vote with a companion's help.

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

How the devices work

The voting device has an adhesive backing, which attaches firmly to the ballot paper but can be removed without damaging the paper.

Flaps on the device cover each of the boxes on the ballot paper in which the vote is marked. The candidate number that corresponds to the box covered by a particular flap is embossed in black on the flaps 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.

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 a process in which a person gives one or more people - the attorney(s) - the legal right to manage their affairs because they are mentally 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 website 'Our Vote, Our Voice'  has been developed with the help of people who have learning difficulties. It has lots of information about voting. You can download an information pack or order a DVD about elections.

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. You can also order a DVD about voting. The DVD has subtitles in 14 languages and a version in British Sign Language.

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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