Is voting independently on the horizon?

Post date: 
Monday, 19 August 2019
Accessible information
A person places their ballot form in a ballot box.

With a potential general election on the horizon, we're pressing the Cabinet Office to make voting a genuinely independent act for blind and partially sighted people.

On 3 May 2019, the High Court ruled that the Government’s provisions for blind and partially sighted people to vote are unlawful, and fail to allow blind and partially sighted people to vote independently and in secret. 

At issue in the case was the Tactile Voting Device (TVD) that sits over the ballot paper and is supposed to allow a blind or partially sighted person to select the candidate they want to vote for. However, even though the device allows someone to select a box to put their mark in, it cannot tell the person the name of the candidate they are putting their mark against. This requires a companion or a polling station staff member to read out the list of candidates and how they are ordered on the ballot paper.

The ruling means that the Government must now urgently develop an alternative to the TVD, to enable blind and partially sighted people to cast their vote in a truly independent and secret way in the next elections.

We recently wrote to the Cabinet Office to inquire about their progress in considering solutions to the accessibility issues raised in this case. We also offered to work with the Cabinet Office to co-produce a solution, as RNIB often works with others to devise accessibility solutions. RNIB's CEO, Matt Stringer, wrote:

It is essential we see truly independent voting offered to blind people alongside their sighted peers as soon as possible.

We will continue to press on this issue, as voting independently and in secret is a cornerstone of our democracy and people who are blind or partially sighted should not be excluded from exercising this democratic right.

We would love to hear from you about your experience at the polling station, and what you'd like to see at future elections.  Why not share your thoughts with us via Twitter @RNIB_Campaigns or send us an email at [email protected].