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Elections Bill ‘takes us back 150 years’ as blind voters face exclusion from electoral process

Blind and partially sighted voters are being denied the right to a secret vote, and the new Elections Bill will only make this worse, warns sight loss charity the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), who are launching a new campaign to fight the proposed changes.

Despite new stats from YouGov showing 87 per cent of the public believe it’s important everyone should have the right to vote in secret, the House of Lords are about to consider Government proposals which could further deny blind and partially sighted people this basic right.

A secret vote has been enshrined in law for 150 years, since the Ballot Act of 1872. Despite this, four in five blind people say they are unable to vote independently and in secret, in practice meaning they often have to share their vote with someone else*.

New research by RNIB and YouGov reveals 86 per cent of the public think it’s important the right equipment is available in every polling station to enable voters with sight loss to vote in private. And if the situation were reversed and they could only vote by telling someone else who they wanted to vote for, 15 per cent of the public said they would no longer vote in elections.

Sophie Dodgeon, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at RNIB, said: “Voting is a fundamentally visual process. Under current law, introduced a generation ago, every polling station must have a device to make voting possible “without any assistance” for voters with sight loss.

“The Elections Bill is getting rid of this guarantee, making getting hold of the right equipment to vote independently a postcode lottery for blind and partially sighted people.

“Removing these protections undoes a generation’s worth of progress in accessible voting for blind and partially sighted people. We have been working with the Government on this for many years now and even successfully piloted new ways to make voting accessible which if available in every polling station could revolutionise the voting experience for blind and partially sighted people.

“This move by the Government appears to go against all aspirations around levelling up for disabled people in society. We urgently call on the Secretary of State Michael Gove and Parliamentarians to maintain existing provisions to enable an independent vote for blind and partially sighted people. Members of the public can help by visiting our website and signing our petition.”