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Electoral Register: Visual Impairment

Question for Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

UIN HL5980, tabled on 4 February 2022

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s conclusion that the Elections Bill will make it more difficult for blind and partially sighted people to cast their votes independently and in secret.

Answered on

17 February 2022

The secrecy of the vote is protected for all voters, including those who are blind and partially sighted, by section 66 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. This is being extended in the Elections Bill to cover voters using postal votes - and so will add to the secrecy provisions for the many disabled electors who choose to vote by post.

Other changes in the Elections Bill are specifically aimed at improving the equipment and support available to disabled voters when casting their vote in the polling station. The RNIB’s proposed approach would require Returning Officers to provide a specific piece of equipment in every polling station - one that is strictly defined in legislation, so cannot be adjusted, modified or updated without further legislation. The Government’s view is that a one-size-fits-all approach is not right for all disabled voters, which is why the Bill broadens the provision so that Returning Officers are required to consider the needs of all disabled voters when providing equipment for polling stations. Rather than a blanket provision, we want disabled voters to get the support that is right for them.

The new requirement will be supported by Electoral Commission guidance produced in partnership with the Government’s expert Accessibility of Elections Working Group, of which the RNIB is a much valued member.