Working with partners in England to help disabled voters take part in elections
On 6 May, voters in England went to the polls to vote in local government elections - including local or combined authority mayors, Police and Crime Commissioner, Mayor of London and London Assembly elections.
This included elections scheduled for 2021 as well as those that had been postponed from 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They used a mixture of voting systems. Some used first past the post - where the candidate with the highest number of votes is elected – while others used supplementary vote. This is when you can vote for a first and second choice candidate.
As a result, voters in some areas had a complex set of elections with multiple ballot papers for different elections using different voting systems.
Working with partners to create easy read and pocket guides
We work with partners from disability organisations before each election to help people understand what elections are happening, how they can take part, the different voting options available and what help and support someone can ask for at a polling station or when voting by post.
This year, the number of elections and the wider public health situation made this even more important.
In England we were pleased to work closely with Mencap, RNIB and United Response to create a range of guides supporting disabled voters to participate in the elections.
We worked with Mencap ahead of the elections to create easy read guides using clear language and pictures to help people with learning disabilities.
The guides explained what elections were taking place, how to register and how to cast a vote including the different voting options available as well as how to fill in the different ballot papers. They also included important dates such as polling day and the deadline for registering to vote.
To cover the different combinations of elections that people might have in their local area, there were three different guides covering:
- Mayor of London and London Assembly elections
- Police and Crime Commissioner and local government elections
- Combined Authority Mayor and local government election
Ismail Kaji, Parliamentary Support Officer at the learning disability charity Mencap and who has a learning disability, says:
Ismail Kaji, Parliamentary Support Officer at the learning disability charity Mencap quote
It’s good to continue working with the Electoral Commission to make sure people with learning disabilities understand the election guides and it is accessible enough for them to understand.
It is important that people with learning disabilities are being included in the voting system and making sure they continue getting their voices heard.
Working with partners to create easy read and pocket guides continued.
In partnership with RNIB and RNIB Cymru, we designed ‘pocket guides’ to help blind and partially sighted people find out which elections were taking place, how to take part, including different voting options, and the support they could request to help them vote at a polling station. The guides also explained what safety measures people should have expected in the polling station as a result of Covid-19.
There were two guides for England – one for Mayor of London and London Assembly elections, and a second for all other elections in England. A guide was also created to cover the Senedd and Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Wales.
All of the guides could be requested from RNIB in alternative formats as needed.
For the first time, we worked with United Response to support them in creating easy read guides explaining how to complete each of the ballot papers being used at the different elections in England. Each guide included a practice ballot paper allowing people to familiarise themselves with the layout and instructions, and to have a go at filling it in in their own time.
The number of elections taking place meant that five guides were needed to explain the Mayor of London, London Assembly, Combined Authority Mayoral, Police and Crime Commissioner and local government ballot papers.
Continuing to work in partnership
People across the electoral community work very hard to try and make voting accessible for everyone, but we know that there is more that can be done to improve the experience of all disabled voters.
We will continue to play our part in making voting more accessible and look forward to working with our partners for future elections to help ensure disabled voters can take part in elections confidently, independently and easily.
We also would welcome interest from other disability organisations wanting to create resources for future elections – in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.