The High Court has 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.
RNIB supported the case by providing an expert witness statement and highlighting our research on people’s experiences of voting – our latest report on this issue ‘Turned Out 2017’ found that only one in four blind and partially sighted voters felt the current system let them vote independently and in secret. A previous report we published (‘Turned Out 2016’) showed that almost two thirds of those who did not vote said they would have done, if it had been more accessible.
The case was brought by Rachael Andrews and focused on the use of the Tactile Voting Device (TVD) at elections. A TVD 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 member of polling station staff, to read out the list of candidates, and where the candidate is in the list on the ballot paper. Rachael argued successfully that she is not able to make an independent and secret vote using only the TVD, and therefore it is not fit for purpose.
We are delighted with the ruling. 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.
The ruling comes just a day after local council elections in many areas of England and across Northern Ireland. We have been contacted by many blind and partially sighted people through our social media pages who have described their poor experiences at the polling station, demonstrating even further just how important this ruling is.
Leigh Deigh represented Rachael in court and have more details of the case on their website.