The UK government has Introduced a new law that will require voters to show identification at the polling station in order to cast their ballot. The purpose of this law is to prevent voter fraud, but it could have unintended consequences for some voters, particularly those with disabilities.
According to the Electoral Commission, around 3.5 million people in the UK do not have access to photo ID. This includes people who are elderly, homeless, or have a disability. For people with disabilities, getting photo ID can be particularly challenging, especially if they are unable to leave their home or if they have communication difficulties.
Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) refers to participation in political and public life. Article 29(a) ensures that people can effectively and fully participate in public life, on an equal basis with others “directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected”.
The new legislation could mean that some disabled people may not be able to vote if they do not have the necessary ID, which would be a violation of their right to participate in our democracy. There are organizations working to promote the rights of disabled people and ensure that they are not disenfranchised by this new law.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of voting for people with disabilities. They have worked with local councils to make sure that polling stations are accessible and that disabled people have the support they need to cast their ballot. This includes providing alternative formats for voting materials, such as large print or audio versions, and ensuring that polling stations are physically accessible.
The LGA’s campaign is part of a wider effort to uphold the human rights of disabled people and promote their right to vote. In 2018, the UK government passed a law that allowed people with learning disabilities to vote if they had the support they needed. This was a significant step forward, but more needs to be done to ensure that everyone, regardless of their disability, can exercise their right to vote.
In Bradford, social workers have been engaging with community members through their #PromoteTheVote scheme, which helps inform and highlight the importance of their voices when it comes to casting their ballots:
If you or someone you know has a disability and is worried about how this new law might affect your right to vote, know that there are people fighting for your rights and working to ensure that everyone has an equal say in our democracy. It’s important to stay informed and to reach out to organizations like the LGA if you need support or have questions about your right to vote.