Your vote: accessible voting, safety and support

This Thursday, 6 May 2021, elections will take place across Scotland, England and Wales. We look at the importance of voting and what accessible information is available to support you.

On Thursday, multiple elections will take place across the UK. These include local council elections in England, Mayor of London and London Assembly elections, and Parliamentary elections in Wales and Scotland. You can find out if there’s an upcoming election where you live on the Electoral Commission website.

Voting in an election is a free way to have your say on the area you live in and wider government policies that affect things like welfare reform and benefits.

Understanding each political party’s intentions, laid out in their manifestos, is important in deciding who you want to vote for, and your vote shouldn’t be influenced by friends’ or family’s opinions, but by what you think.

People with a disability have the same rights to vote as everybody else.

Support

If you are registered to vote, you will do this by post, by proxy or in person. If you have decided to vote by post, you should have received a postal voting pack in the post including the ballot papers for the election taking place and have sent this back to your local elections team. If you didn’t receive your postal vote, contact your local team.

If you have already signed up to vote by proxy, you have asked someone you trust to cast your vote on your behalf. Before this person goes to the polling station, make sure they know who you would like to vote for.

If you will be voting in person on Thursday, there is support available to help you cast your vote. You should have received a polling card through the post, this tells you where to vote and what time the polling centre is open.

The staff at your polling place are there to assist you if you need it. There are a number of things at the polling place to help you cast your vote, this includes a large print sample ballot paper and a tactile voting device to help if you have a visual impairment.

If you would like to, you can take your phone into the polling booth to use magnifier or text-to-speech apps, or your phone’s torch to improve lighting. You cannot take photos in the polling station.

You can also bring someone with you to help if they are over 18 and eligible to vote.

COVID-19 safety

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, leaving your home to vote might seem scary, but it is important to use your voice by voting. Polling places will have measures in place to ensure your safety.

Polling places will be open from 7am to 10pm so you can vote at a time that suits you. Physical distancing measures will be in place and there may also be a limit on how many people are allowed inside a polling place at once. Where possible, polling places will also use a one-way system, but signage should detail this.

The polling place staff may be behind protective screens, like in shops, but you can still ask them for help and information if you need it.

You will be asked to sanitise your hands on entry and exit, and staff will be cleaning voting booths regularly. This could mean that you have to wait for a booth to be cleaned before using it.

When you go inside the polling station, you will have to wear a face covering unless you are exempt.

Clean pencils will be available for each voter, but you can also take your own pencil with you if this will make you feel more comfortable.

If you start to feel unwell on election day, do not go to the polling station. Due to COVID-19, you can apply for an emergency proxy vote up until 5pm on polling day.

Information

The Electoral Commission, an independent agency that sets standards for how elections are run in the UK, have worked with different organisations to help everyone vote.

Mencap, RNIB and United Response have worked with the agency to produce guides that help people with a learning disability or sight loss to take part and vote in elections.

These guides can also be helpful for people who support a person with a learning disability or sight loss.

Mencap and United Response have created multiple easy read guides for the different elections taking place this May. RNIB has also produced three pocket guides ahead of these elections.

If you have questions or want further guidance on support ahead of an upcoming election, contact your local electoral registration office.

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