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14th Jun 2024
Andrew Morter chief executive of Vision Norfolk sm

Norfolk’s sight loss charity has issued guidance to the county’s vision impaired voters about how they can cast their ballot in the forthcoming General Election.

Around 38,000 people in Norfolk are living with some degree of sight loss, which can make voting in elections a difficult undertaking.

Now Vision Norfolk has issued guidance about the options available, including a new machine being trialled in some parts of the county which enables blind and vision impaired people to cast their vote in the polling station without the assistance of a sighted person, thus ensuring their ballot is secret.

The charity has set out the following options for those whose sight loss prevents them from voting in the usual way:

  • In Person at a Polling Station: All polling stations are required by law to provide on request
    • A large print copy of the ballot paper for reference
    • Magnifiers
    • Additional lighting
    • Pencil grips
    • A tactile voting device
    • Assistance to be guided to the voting booth, read the voting material and to mark the vote if required (this can be a member of polling station staff or the vision impaired person’s own companion, provided they are over 18 and have photo ID)
  • Postal Voting: This method enables people to cast their vote in their own home using magnifiers or other equipment.  The deadline for applying for a postal vote for the General Election is Wednesday 19th June.
  • Voting by Proxy: Vision Impaired people can nominate someone they trust to cast their vote for them at the polling station.  Those who are registered as blind are automatically entitled to a proxy vote; other vision impaired people will need someone to support their application, such as a GP or social worker.  The deadline for applying for a proxy vote for the General Election is Wednesday 26th June.

Vision Norfolk is also promoting the use of special devices to help vision impaired people vote independently and secretly.

All polling stations must provide on request a tactile voting device.  This fits over the ballot paper and has tactile numbered flaps directly over the boxes where the voter makes their mark.  The list of candidates and their corresponding numbers can be read out by polling station staff, or provided in advance in audio format if requested.

In addition, some areas in Norfolk are providing access to a McGonagle Reader voting device.  This is similar to a tactile voting device, but can read out the candidates’ names and election information, allowing for more independence when voting.  Access to a McGonagle Reader is not available in every area, and is very limited, so vision impaired people wanting to use one should contact their Local Registration Officer as soon as possible to request the use of one.

Vision Norfolk chief executive Andrew Morter said, “It is hugely important for democracy that vision impaired people are able to cast their vote, as independently as possible and ideally privately.

“Whilst polling station staff are generally very helpful, in 2024 we really should be seeing devices in every polling station which allow people living with sight loss to cast their vote in secret, and without the assistance of another person.

“For those who are unable to get to a polling station and vote in person on the day, it is very important to note the deadlines for registering for a postal or proxy vote, or they risk not being able to take part in the election at all.”

A full version of the guidance for people living with sight loss to voting in the General Election can be found at www.visionnorfolk./org.uk/about-us/reports.