Blind and partially sighted people were denied right to vote independently and secretly in General Election 2017

Blind and partially sighted people were denied the right to vote independently and in secret during the General Election 2017, according to new research by Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) [1].

A survey of blind and partially sighted General Election 2017 voters revealed they continued to face unacceptable barriers to exercising their democratic right to vote in secret.

The research, for RNIB’s report Turned Out 2017, found:

  • only 1 in 4 blind and partially sighted voters said the current system let them vote independently and in secret
  • 8 in 10 who used the tactile template to vote at a polling station said they voted with a companion or member of staff present and
  • half said they wanted to be able to vote online and / or by phone as an alternative to the current system.

Before the next General Election, RNIB is calling for three significant changes:

1.   The current tactile voting device to be replaced with a new accessible voting system that guarantees blind and partially sighted voters, without any assistance, can:

  • review the candidates on the ballot paper themselves
  • reliably find and mark their chosen candidate on the official   ballot paper and
  • be in sole control of the secrecy of their vote.

2.   Guarantee all blind and partially sighted voters can get their legal right to vote without any assistance and in secret by:

  • eradicating the breakdowns in the current system
  • empowering blind and partially sighted people to vote on the same terms as everyone else and
  • changing the culture of accessible voting from routinely intervening to assist a blind and partially sighted voter to not having to assist.

By the 2022 General Election:

3.   Provide an online and / or telephone option for blind and partially sighted people to cast their vote independently and in secret if they are unable able to vote at their polling station.

Fazilet Hadi, Deputy Chief Executive of RNIB, said:

“RNIB called on the Government to ensure General Election 2017 was the most accessible ever for blind and partially sighted people.

Turned Out 2017 shows it wasn’t.

“Blind and partially sighted voters continue to face the same barriers to exercising their democratic right to vote as with previous elections.

“We urge the Government to make changes to enable blind and partially sighted people to vote in the way other people take for granted, independently and in secret.”

Wayne Chapman, a blind voter from London, said:

“When I went to vote in the General Election 2017, the polling station staff did not know how to use the tactile voting device or they had forgotten their training. I had a better experience voting in the previous election.

“Accessible voting for blind and partially sighted people should be totally reliable. The current system is hit and miss, it is not suitable for voters who have sight loss.”

Notes to editors

[1] Turned Out 2017, RNIB, August 2017, www.rnib.org.uk/voting

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About RNIB

Every 15 minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and we're here for everyone affected by sight loss - that's almost 2 million people in the UK. If you, or someone you know, has a sight problem, RNIB can help. Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk