Reviews of polling districts, polling places and polling stations

The accessibility requirements of a polling place review

Every person should be able to vote without facing barriers. By identifying and understanding the physical, psychological and information barriers disabled people may face when voting, ROs will be better able to make appropriate arrangements to help support them. 

You can find more information in our guidance: Understanding the barriers to voting for disabled people.

As part of the compulsory review, local authorities must consider the accessibility of potential polling stations when considering designating or reviewing a polling place. In doing so they must seek to ensure that:

  • all electors in a constituency in the local authority area have such reasonable facilities for voting as are practicable in the circumstances
  • so far as is reasonable and practicable every polling place for which it is responsible is accessible to electors who are disabled

Engaging with accessibility experts 

As part of the review the local authority must seek representations from those who have a particular expertise in relation to access to premises or facilities for persons who have different forms of disability, as well as engaging any disability access groups and/or disability officer.

Your duty to consider the accessibility issues 

Local authorities have a duty to review the accessibility of all polling places to disabled voters and ensure that every polling place, and prospective polling place, for which it is responsible is accessible to disabled voters ‘so far as is reasonable and practicable’. 

According to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission the duty to make reasonable adjustments comprises three requirements. 

For service providers and those exercising public functions, these requirements are:

  • Where a provision, criterion or practice puts disabled people at a substantial disadvantage compared with those who are not disabled, to take reasonable steps to avoid that disadvantage.
  • Where a physical feature puts disabled people at a substantial disadvantage compared with people who are not disabled to avoid that disadvantage or adopt a reasonable alternative method of providing the service or exercising the function.
  • Where not providing an auxiliary aid, for example a ramp for wheelchair user1 , puts disabled people at a substantial disadvantage compared with people who are not disabled, to provide that auxiliary aid.

Access to the polling station is still a barrier to some disabled people who want to cast their vote in person. Some of the main physical access issues which should be considered as part of a review are:

  • polling places and stations with steps into the entrance, or otherwise inaccessible
  • narrow doorways and corridors
  • lack of space within the polling place that did not enable motorised wheelchair manoeuvrability 
  • lack of space and secrecy for the elector and their companion to discuss the elector’s choice of vote  
  • lack of low level polling booths or booths/tables that didn’t provide disabled voters with confidence that they could cast their vote in secrecy as they were positioned close to the polling station staff
  • a lack of chairs to enable people to rest
  • a lack of a clear display of guidance or aids (such as tactile voting devices) to enable people to feel confident about the process 
  • inadequate lighting 

The Elections Act 2022 provides a duty for ROs to provide each polling station with such equipment as it is reasonable to provide for the purposes of enabling, or making it easier for, relevant persons to vote independently and in secret2 . The review should therefore include consideration of whether the building can accommodate the equipment you will provide to support disabled voters. 

We have produced an accessibility checklist that can be used to assess the suitability of each polling place and polling station which covers these, as well as other issues. 

Last updated: 12 July 2023