THE closing date for the Scottish Government’s consultation on electoral reform has now been extended to 29 March 2018 and will be part of the discussions at the next LDAS Big Meeting.
The issue of voting ballots – paper and electronic – being made more accessible for people with learning disabilities has been a focus of the work of LDAS recently and we highlighted in our recent blog that it had not been specifically set out for comment in the consultation.
Ahead of the original closing date of the consultation, staff behind it discussed the issue with LDAS and assured us they definitely do want to hear about all ways to make voting more accessible for people with learning disabilities in Scotland, after all the point of the consultation is about a commitment to “ensuring access to democratic participation for all citizens.”
And they asked that individuals and organisations working with people with learning disabilities include as much information as possible in their consultation responses about their views around accessible ballots and accessible voting support.
The purpose behind the consultation is to modernise the way we vote in Scottish Parliament and local elections so this naturally includes introducing electronic voting technology, a prospect that members of the LDAS Stronger Together Accessible Politics groups have responded to positively and negatively in equal measure.
But without exception members of the groups so far are in agreement that the ballot itself is hardly accessible, and the polling station experience is something that should be improved in order to help people with learning disabilities cast their votes.
The consultation does go into other aspects of the voting set up in Scotland at present, issues such as whether the addresses of local election candidates should be listed on ballot papers or whether voters should be entitled to use any polling station in the country on election days.
Even issues such as the frequency of elections and whether elections should take place over more than one day have been put forward for consideration, so the scope of the consultation is extensive.
Of all the issues raised, however, when it comes to the voting process itself, the overwhelming verdict of the LDAS groups so far is a fervent request for improved ballots.
The consultation will be the focus of part of the forthcoming LDAS Big Meeting on 27 March at the Spoon Café in Glasgow from 11am-1pm, just ahead of the closing date of the consultation, where we will have the chance to discuss it with Scottish Government representatives.
In the meantime LDAS is seeking to gather as much information about the views and experiences of people with learning disabilities on the issues as possible to raise at our Big Meeting and include in our discussions with and submissions to the consultation team.
To that end we have released a short easy read survey on ballots for people to fill in and return to us by email or post or to bring along to the Big Meeting. Please get your members and groups to fill it in so that we can get as comprehensive a picture as possible of what people with learning disabilities across Scotland think about the voting process and what improvements they would like to see to help them fully participate in the electoral process.
You can download a copy of the survey by clicking on the picture or click here.
To hear more about it and to make your views known to the Scottish Government on accessible voting please come along to the meeting.
For the LDAS easy read version of the consultation click here.