Voting and accessibility

wheelchair-ramp2

The General Election for 2015 is fast approaching, probably the most unknown result in recent history is only days away now. For many it will be the first time they have voted.

Who can vote?

To be eligible to vote in UK parliamentary general election you need to be:

  • 18+ years old 
  •  a citizen of one of the following countries:
    • Great Britain
    • Republic of Ireland
    • Cyprus
    • Malta
    • Commonwealth countries (if you have leave to enter or remain in the UK or do not require it).

Citizens of other European Union countries are not able to vote in this election even if they have their names on the Electoral Register.

These elections are due to be combined with the local council election, so those people eligible to vote in both elections will have received two ballot papers.

Your poll card

Providing your name is on the electoral register, you should have received a poll card which tells you where you should vote.

Election day

Polling stations will be open from 7am-10pm on election day. 

The votes will be counted and declared following the close of poll.

What happens in a polling station?

  1. When you arrive, you’ll need to speak to the election staff at the desk.  Tell them your name and address. 
  2. They will mark the register to show you have voted and give you the ballot paper(s) you are entitled to. 
  3. You will need to go to one of the empty polling booths and mark a cross (X) in the box on the right hand side of the ballot paper(s), opposite the name of each candidate you are voting for.  Make sure you put no other mark or writing on the ballot paper, or your vote may not be counted.  Fold the ballot paper(s) to keep your vote secret. 
  4. Go back to the desk and show the election staff the numbering on the back of the ballot paper, before you put the ballot paper(s) in the ballot box and leave the polling station.

But is it easy?

However, is the process as easy as it could be for people with a disability or those with mobility restrictions?

Postal voting is a very important option for voters who simply cannot leave the house for one reason or another, but are councils really making an effort so that disabled people can vote as easily as every one else?

Has the postal vote simply become an opportunity for local authorities to avoid the responsibility of providing trained staff and venues suitable for all constituents?

We’re very interested to know your views and we will also publish photographs of poor access should you come across this general election, it in order to highlight this issue [you can use the contact us page]. We’re also keen to know if you have issues parking at these venues.

Have a read of this article that Scope posted on their blog and if you have a similar story please let us know!

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Voting and accessibility

  1. Yes I had a problem –

    7 May at 19:42 ·
    Went and voted this afternoon and couldn’t get through the door into the polling station which was supposed to be the disabled access route as well! They brought the booth outside for me to vote (took a photo not very good though). Felt demeaned angry and embarrassed about the whole thing even though they apologised. I said they shouldn’t have to apologise as this shouldn’t be happening in the first place. Everyone was sympathetic about my access issues, I just felt pathetic!

    Their response:

    I refer to your complaint of the 10 May 2015 regarding disabled access to the Polling Station located at Notley High School. The Council reviewed all Polling Stations in August 2014 and were satisfied that standard wheelchair access was available.

    I am advised by the Presiding Officer that you were unable to access the Polling Station and therefore, in accordance with Electoral Commission guidance made arrangements for you to vote by physically bringing a Polling Screen to you thereby affording you some privacy in voting.

    I am sorry the location available to the Returning Officer could not accommodate your wheelchair and assure you that should another location with more suitable access become available this will be actively pursued.

    Given the difficulties experienced may I offer you (form attached) the opportunity of seeking a postal vote which will allow you to vote in the privacy of your own home

    My reply (edited for redaction in places)

    Whilst I appreciate that you carried out a review in August 2014 for standard wheelchair access, this to me implies that wheelchair users have standard disabilities and use a one-size-fits-all attitude which personally I find farcical and insulting at best. It also indicates that the standards used by your review were not sufficient in my opinion as I am a wheel/power-chair user who lives locally and found the access be totally inadequate.
    Even if I were able to have gotten my chair through the door someone would have had to open and hold the manually outward opening door open for me to enter and that should have been an instant fail on disabled wheelchair access as this should require automatically opening doors via an accessible button or sensor pads.

    I would rather you provide a less humiliating solution than having a polling booth brought just outside the entrance affording me practically no privacy with people immediately behind me going in and out of the polling station or suggesting I change to using the postal voting system which defeats the whole issue of disabled access.

    If I had wished to vote by post then I would have chosen that option, in fact I don’t and from recent personal experience would find it more dangerous than voting at a polling station considering access to the nearest post box/office that I know of is too dangerous and life threatening for me as I describe below.

    Accessibility to the nearest post box/office, by chair for me, which I have attempted on two separate occasions, I have found to be too dangerous and subsequently impossible due to poor pavement conditions, anti cycle barriers being anti-disabled barriers as well, cars parking on pavements and across dropped kerbs (I can supply photographic evidence if you require), the camber of some parts of pavements traversed to be dangerously steep, and some dropped kerbs not being dropped enough to use safely anyway.

    On both occasions because of poor pavement quality, maintenance and obstructions I have ended up with no choice but to risk my life using the busy roads instead. On one occasion (the last) I got physically stuck attempting to negotiate the anti cycle barriers on the footpath between [my road] and [another road]. It was only the help from a kind stranger passing by who ended up having to physically lift me in my chair to get free, just before I was about to call the emergency services for help and he was quite disgusted at the poor access there was for me.

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  2. We shall see – I’m in a self-propelled wheelchair. And the only access I can see to the polling station I’ve been allocated to appears to be up a set of steps…

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    1. If you have difficulties and are able to do so, please send us photos Jaki and we’ll do a follow up article with them and your comments on your experience.

      Like

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