Visually impaired denied right to vote in secret


Online voting would ensure the right of vision impaired citizens to cast their vote privately in elections

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24th May 2017 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

The majority of visually impaired Scots will be unable to cast their vote in the upcoming general election privately.

The Royal Society for Blind Children and think-tank WebRoots Democracy have called on politicians to ensure the right to vote anonymously is extended to every British citizen, including those with disabilities.

It says 69% of visually impaired voters, around 1.3 million people, will need help from a friend, family member or official to cast their vote. Otherwise, they risk spoiling their ballot paper and having it discounted.

The organisations say that in this day and age, visually impaired voters should be able to cast their vote online, in private.

They are calling on politicians from all parties to commit to introducing an online voting option in future elections.

Law graduate Ruksana Khanum from the Royal Society for Blind Children's Youth Forum said: "With the general election fast approaching, I have to plan ahead to find someone who will help me vote.

“That person must be someone I trust and preferably of the same political views as me, as I can't be sure which box they cross. Once again, I'm unable to cast my vote independently and in private, which makes me feel like my vote is of no real consequence to politicians."

Previous findings by WebRoots Democracy found that online voting could also boost voter turnout amongst the general population.

A survey it commissioned last year showed that online voting could have boosted youth voter turnout by 1.2 million in the EU referendum.

Areeq Chowdhury, chief executive of WebRoots Democracy, said: “In a true democracy, everyone would have the right to independently cast their vote. However, this simply isn't the case in the UK. Voters are being left out of democracy by an analogue attitude towards elections.

“Digital technology exists to enable vision impaired voters to independently participate in elections, and it's high time we adopted it for this critical purpose. Australia has implemented online voting for vision impaired voters, why can't we do it here in the UK?”

WebRoots Democracy and the RSBC will be publishing a full report exploring democratic accessibility issues for voters with vision impairments and other disabilities early next month.

It says in addition to accessibility issues with voting itself, vision impaired voters also face challenges in finding out information about their local candidates and as well as the location of their polling station.