Local elections are taking place across parts of England and Wales on Thursday 2 May. The Electoral Commission, the independent elections watchdog, and Scope, the disability charity, are encouraging people with disabilities (and those who work with them) to take a few minutes to make sure they can vote.
“Everyone should be able to have their say on the issues that affect their everyday lives,” says Samantha Mills, the Commission’s Head of Campaigns. “We don’t want anyone to be put off because they think the process might be difficult. A lot of improvements have been made over the years to make voting accessible.”
Marc Bush, Head of Research and Public Policy at disability charity Scope, said: “At a time of sweeping changes to welfare support and vast cuts to services used and relied on by disabled people and their families we would urge everyone to take the steps they need, to ensure they are able to vote in the May elections. This is a crucial opportunity for disabled people to ensure their voices are heard in the upcoming elections on issues that will have huge implications on their lives.”
Anyone can apply to vote by post or by proxy (where someone they trust casts their vote for them). Applying is straightforward and forms can be printed off from www.aboutmyvote.org.uk. This needs to be done by 17 April for postal votes or 24 April for proxy applications. People can also register to vote if they have not already done so – registration forms can be found on the same website.
If voting by post, people need to provide a signature and date of birth when they apply and again when they vote. These need to match for the vote to be valid, which may mean voting by post may be unsuitable for some people.
Voting in person at a polling station should be straightforward. Polling station staff will provide tactile voting templates and large print ballot papers. There are booths at wheelchair height and voters can bring a companion to assist. The polling station’s Presiding Officer can help.
“It’s your vote, don’t lose your chance to use it,” urges Mills.