Access to voting

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2018 National Disabled Members' Conference
5 July 2018
Carried as Amended

Conference is concerned that it is becoming increasingly difficult for disabled people to participate in the election process. While disabled people have always needed to overcome barriers to be able to vote the government seems determined to make it virtually impossible. The Conservative government’s changes to the voter registration system, including individual voter registration, and the recently piloted photographic identification requirement at polling stations, have exacerbated these barriers.

Turnout at elections is often low. Some people aren’t interested in politics while others say they’re too busy or don’t like any of the politicians but when disabled people are asked why they don’t vote the answers are often very different. Reasons include:

• I don’t know how to register to vote and no one comes to help anymore;

• The information on how to vote isn’t accessible;

• The postal vote papers were confusing so I gave up;

• There’s no ramp at the polling station;

• The temporary polling station is too small for my wheelchair;

• I’m blind and the polling clerk shouted out who I was voting for last time;

• I don’t have any photo ID and someone said I needed it

While some of the reasons may be based on inaccurate information (you don’t need photo ID just yet but might in the future) and others may seem insignificant or easy to overcome they are preventing our Disabled Members from exercising their democratic right to vote.

The registration system is confusing and if there’s no help in your area you may just give up. The information councils send out on voting is set in law but it isn’t easy to understand especially for someone with a learning disability. Postal ballots can be confusing with people often not realising which paper goes in which envelope or where they need to sign. Polling stations should be accessible but many aren’t and in some cases staff do need better training. And as for those photo ID’s they may not be needed now but the government has already trialled them in some areas and there is significant evidence that shows disabled people are less likely to have passports or driving licenses.

Research shows that Black people in the UK are less likely to be registered to vote compared to the general population. This may be due to often well founded fear in the Black community about giving personal information to officialdom and also reflects that Black people are often in less stable accommodation. In addition Black people from Commonwealth countries may not be aware they are entitled to vote. The implementation of Individual Voter Registration has already seen a reduction in Black voters on the voter register and has particularly impacted Black women who may previously have been registered by their spouses but now go unregistered. Furthermore, the pilot of the planned new requirement for photo identification at polling stations will particularly impact Black disabled people who are less likely to have the correct forms of photo identification.

Evidence shows that when disabled people vote they are more likely to vote Labour. Around 20% of the population are disabled and their votes could make a massive difference in the next Election but only if they are able to vote.

Conference calls upon National Disabled Members Committee to work with National Executive Committee to:

1. Campaign for the introduction of an accessible system of voter registration;

2. Support Disabled Members to request reasonable adjustments at polling stations including British Sign Language interpreters;

3. Create guidance to help Disabled Members become more politically engaged; and

4. Lobby for a national standard of training for polling officers that includes disability and Deaf awareness training.

5. Support appropriate campaign against the roll out of the requirement for photographic identification at polling stations.