After much anticipation, it became clear at the end of October that we would be having a winter General Election. With the date of the election set for 12 December 2019, the campaigning by political parties is well underway.
In the run up to the election, we’re asking blind and partially sighted voters to remember the three Rs. Register to vote, request support and report your experience!
And of course, to make sure the elected Members of Parliament (MPs) prioritise issues for blind and partially sighted people, it’s important to contact your local candidates now.
First of all, you need to make sure you are registered if you want to vote. For this General Election, you need to register by 26 November. You can find out how to do this on the Government gov.uk website, where you can register online.
Next, how can blind and partially sighted cast their vote, when we know that current arrangements are far from perfect?
My colleague at RNIB Scotland, James Adams, has recently explained how blind and partially sighted people can face unacceptable barriers to vote independently and in secret. Indeed, in May 2019, the High Court ruled against the Government, finding that existing arrangements for blind and partially sighted people to vote are unlawful.
So we find ourselves in an unusual situation, where we’re reminding people to request support when they need it – whilst we’re still calling for this support to be made fit for purpose. Current support includes use of a ‘Tactile Voting Device’ (TVD), a template device which fits over the ballot paper, and a large print ballot paper listing the candidates, for reference only. We have more information on how people can vote, available on the RNIB website, whether it’s at the polling station, by postal vote or by proxy. Please do request the method most suitable for you.
And let us know about your experience, good or ill. The greater the weight of evidence we have, the more we can increase the pressure for change. We’ve contacted the Cabinet Office which is setting up a working group, to consider options for accessible voting. And we’re ready to share our knowledge and expertise to find a solution.
Finally, how can we make sure that MPs in Parliament know about the importance of accessible voting, and other key issues facing blind and partially sighted people?
We’re asking people to contact their Parliamentary Candidates, calling on them to become RNIB Champions. We have template emails and letters to help you do this, and we have RNIB's 2019 General Election Manifestos for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These highlight the key issues we’ll be pressing candidates on during the General Election campaign.
You can ask to meet your candidates, or even arrange a ‘sim spec’ walk if your local area has problems with street obstacles or shared space developments. This can give them an insight into the importance of accessible streets and inclusive journeys, one of our key manifesto points.
If your candidate agrees to become an RNIB Champion, they can share this on Twitter using the hashtag #RNIBChampion. If elected to Parliament, we can get in touch and share opportunities for them to support our work. They’ll already know the importance of key issues, and we can send them briefings ahead of debates, and statistics about sight loss in their constituency.
So, don’t forget to register to vote, request assistance if you need it, and report your experience. And please be ready to contact your Parliamentary Candidates. Let’s make sure this is the last General Election where the voting process is ruled unlawful, and that MPs in the new Parliament fight for progress as RNIB Champions.
You can contact the RNIB Campaigns Team by calling 0303 123 9999, or by email at [email protected].