Secret ballot must be a priority for next UK Parliament
Blind and partially sighted voters still struggle to cast their ballot papers in secret, says a leading sight loss charity as it launches its manifesto for the December 12 General Election.
RNIB Cymru is urging elected Welsh MPs to add their voice to calls for a review of election procedures. While Welsh-only elections are now the responsibility of the National Assembly, powers over UK-wide elections and referendums remain reserved to Westminster MPs.
RNIB Cymru director Ansley Workman said: “Last May, the High Court of Justice ruled that present provisions for voters with sight loss were “a parody of the election process” because they fail to allow them to vote independently and in secret.
“The two voting aids currently available, a large-print ballot paper or a tactile voting device, a plastic template that fits over the ballot paper, can still mean people need a sighted person to guide them where to put their cross. Eighty per cent of people surveyed by RNIB who used a tactile voting device said that they voted with another person.
“It's simply not acceptable that people can leave their polling station unsure whether they've correctly voted for the candidate of their choice, or feel obliged to ask someone else for help. We want the next Parliament to urgently explore alternatives such as secure digital options.”
Currently, there are around 111,000 people living in Wales with a significant degree of sight loss, and two million across the UK.
In its manifesto, the charity is urging Welsh MPs to champion the following:
- Make sure employment and benefit support works for blind and partially sighted people in Wales by providing visual awareness training for Jobcentre plus staff and ensuring the Department for Work and Pensions’ processes are fair and accessible.
- Make democracy accessible for all by ensuring that blind and partially sighted people can vote independently and in private at all UK-wide elections and referenda
- Guarantee that blind and partially sighted people can move around safely and independently by delivering on the recommendations for accessible street design in Building for equality: “Disability and the Built Environment”
"We would also urge all the major political parties to ask if their manifestos are available in accessible versions such as audio, braille or large print,” said Ms Workman.
RNIB’s manifesto also invites Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to become RNIB Champions if elected to Parliament.