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Date posted: 27th April 2022
Amendments have been accepted to the Government’s Elections Bill that will protect the right of blind and partially sighted people to vote independently and secretly. The Election Bill amendments, which were tabled by Peer, Lord Holmes, were passed by the House of Lords on Monday 25 April.
The original proposals in the Elections Bill would have weakened the requirement for elections staff to provide support to allow visually impaired voters to cast their votes independently.
The amendments passed have now specifically inserted into the Bill the requirement to ensure independent and secret ballots and to require the Electoral Commission to provide statutory guidance to election officials on how these duties should be met, including through support for visually impaired voters.
Lord Holmes said:
“These vital changes will ensure every elector is enabled to vote independently and in secret. It is 150 years since the passage of The Ballot Act, establishing the fundamental right to a secret vote, it is essential that these Statutory changes come into force, benefiting every voter in the UK.
“For the first time, the Electoral Commission will be required to produce Statutory Guidance on the accessibility of the poll. Further, Returning Officers will now have a ‘have regard’ duty in relation to that guidance.
“These changes will make the most fundamental of actions in any democratic society, voting, accessible and inclusive for every voter, blind, partially sighted, disabled or non-disabled: there could barely be anything more essential and important.”
Lord Holmes has written about the changes in more detail here on his blog.
Mike Bell, National Public Affairs Lead for the Thomas Pocklington Trust, said:
“We welcome these changes that will strengthen the rights of blind and partially sighted voters. We are grateful to Lord Holmes and Peers from across all parties and none for taking up this issue in the House of Lords and pressing for changes.
“This has been a victory for common sense but also for working across the sector. RNIB has led the campaign to persuade Ministers to think again and TPT has supported these efforts, including meeting with the Minister, Chloe Smith, and writing to set out our concerns.”