All voters have a right to vote independently and in secret, and local authorities have to ensure that polling stations are accessible to people with sight loss.
We’ve made a step forward in our accessible voting campaign. The Cabinet Office have told all Returning Officers they could allow people with sight loss to use tools such as video magnifiers or mobile phones to help them vote independently in the upcoming 2019 General Election.
Unfortunately, the decision about whether to allow these adjustments rests with the individual Returning Officer so we can’t guarantee that you will be allowed to use your device. When you're in the polling station on Election day, make sure you mention your sight loss to the person on duty in the polling station and ask whether you are allowed to use your device as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act.
We’re running a survey from polling day onwards to find out how successful this measure is. However, we know this is not an acceptable long term solution to making voting accessible. We will continue calling on the Cabinet Office to find a way to guarantee that blind and partially sighted people can be confident they can vote independently and in private every time.
There are a number of different ways local authorities can make polling booths accessible, including the use of large print ballot forms, a simple tactile aid or allowing someone to help you while in the booth.
By law, every polling station must display a large print copy of the ballot paper for reference. They must also provide a reference copy for you to take into the booth with you. You can use the large print copy to read all the information on the ballot form, but you must still cast your vote on a standard print ballot paper.
If you have difficulty completing the standard print ballot paper, you can use a tactile voting device to help mark your vote in the correct place. Each polling station must provide a tactile device for people with sight loss.
The tactile voting device has a sticky backing, which attaches on top of your ballot paper. It has numbered lift up flaps (the numbers are raised and in braille) directly over the boxes where you mark your vote.
You will need to use the large print ballot form, or ask someone (a companion or polling station staff) to read out the list of candidates to you. The candidates are in alphabetical order. You will need to remember the number of the candidate you wish to vote for, then lift the flap with the same number and mark your cross (X) in the box.
You can then detach the tactile device and fold your ballot paper in half before posting it in the ballot box.
If you have difficulty using both the large print ballot paper and the tactile voting device, you can also request somebody to help you at the polling station. They can help guide you between the entrance, desk, polling booth and ballot box. They can also vote on your behalf.
The person helping you could be one of the polling station staff or your own companion. Your own companion must be a member of your immediate family over 18 years old, or a 'qualified elector' - which means someone who is legally able to vote in a UK election.
If you are registered to vote, but will be unable to get to a polling station to vote, you can appoint someone you trust to go to your polling station to vote on your behalf. This is called voting by proxy.
Unlike postal voting, you do need to give a reason for your proxy vote. Explaining you find it difficult to get to the polling station because of your sight loss or another disability should suffice.
You'll need to register to vote by proxy at least six working days before the election by completing an application form (there are different application forms depending on your reason for requesting a proxy vote) and sending it back to your local electoral registration office. Unless you are registered as blind you will need someone to support your application (such as a GP or social worker).
You can call your local authority's election services to get one of these forms.
You can apply to vote by post rather than going to a polling station.
If you have registered to vote by post you will be sent your ballot paper. You can cast your vote in your own home using your own magnifiers or equipment, rather than going to your polling station.
You can also request assistance at home, including a tactile voting device, a large print ballot form for reference, and help with returning your completed ballot form.