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What to expect at the polling station if you're living with sight loss?

Ensuring local blind and partially sighted people are included in the 2019 General Election

Every eligible member of our community has the right to vote independently and in secret and voting at the polling station must be accessible to people living with sight loss. But we know, from talking to local people living with sight loss and from research conducted by the RNIB, that this isn’t always the case. Visually impaired voters are often left without accessible information about candidates and voting information. Going to a polling station has been described by partially sighted people as making them feel worthless and unable to place a vote in secret - a basic human right.

Here, you will find information on your rights as a voter including the various options you have to cast your vote.

Information on Voting in the General Election

Some of this information is with thanks to the RNIB Website.

What to expect at the Polling Station?

By Law, every polling station has to provide:

A large print ballot form

A large print copy of the ballot paper should be displayed for reference. A copy should also be given to you to take into the booth with you. Although you can use the large print copy to read all the information which is on the ballot form, your vote must still be cast on a standard print ballot paper.

A Tactile Voting Device

large print ballot form, or ask the polling station staff for help to read out the list of candidates to you, which are numbered and in alphabetical order. You then need to remember the number of the candidate you wish to vote for and lift the flap with the same number and then mark your X in the box. The tactile device then detaches so you can then fold your ballot paper in half before posting it in the ballot box.

Help at the Polling Station

Despite large print ballot papers and the Tactile Voting Device, it’s still common for partially sighted voters to have difficulties. You can request somebody to help you at the polling station. Help can guide you from the entrance, polling booths and ballot boxes as well as vote on your behalf. This person can be a member of staff at the polling station, an immediate family member over 18 years old, or a qualified elector which is someone who is legally able to vote in a UK election.

Update from the RNIB on accessible voting options on election day

The RNIB made a step forward in their accessible voting campaign. The Cabinet Office have told all Returning Officers they could allow people with sight loss to use tools such as video magnifiers or mobile phones to help them vote independently in today's General Election.

Unfortunately, the decision about whether to allow these adjustments rests with the individual Returning Officer so wit isn't guaranteed that you will be allowed to use your device. When you're in the polling station on Election day, make sure you mention your sight loss to the person on duty in the polling station and ask whether you are allowed to use your device as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act.

The RNIB are running a survey from polling day onwards to find out how successful this measure is but it's acknowledged this is not an acceptable long term solution to making voting accessible. The RNIB are continuing to call on the Cabinet Office to find a way to guarantee that blind and partially sighted people can be confident they can vote independently and in private every time. 

Can I vote without going to a Polling Station?

Yes! There are other ways of voting without going to a polling station on the day of the General Election.

Vote by Proxy

If you are registered to vote, but will not be able to get to a polling station to vote, you can appoint somebody you trust to go to your polling station to vote on your behalf. This is what is called voting by proxy. It’s different to postal voting because you need to give a reason for your proxy vote, but explaining that you find it difficult to get to a polling station because of your sight loss should suffice. At least 6 working days before the General Election, you must register your vote by proxy. There is a form to complete (which varies depending on the reason you are requesting a by proxy vote) which must be returned to your local electoral registration office. You may need somebody to support your application, such as a professional like a GP or support worker.

Postal Voting

It’s possible to vote by post rather than by visiting a polling station. You must register in advance to use this option and then you will be sent a ballot paper which gives you the option to vote in your own home using magnifiers or equipment.

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