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Voting In Elections

Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People has written an information booklet on Voting In Elections.

Why an information sheet about voting?

Disabled people have the same right to vote in local and general elections as non-disabled people. For some disabled people there are access barriers to voting. As the election system is set up at the moment, it is not possible for some disabled people to achieve independent voting; that is, being able to vote without support, for example, by using audio.

The next General Election and local Council elections are on 7 May. Anyone wishing to vote must be registered by 20 April. In this time of stringent service cuts, it is more important than ever that disabled people’s views are heard in the elections.

This leaflet aims to give information about voting to disabled people, as GMCDP has found that many disabled people have not had access to their right to vote. There have also been some recent changes, such as how people register, which will be useful information for both new and seasoned voters.

At the end of the leaflet there are contact details for the Greater Manchester electoral offices and other places to find more information about elections, voting and registering to vote.
Who Can Vote?

You can vote if you have registered to vote and:
• You are 18 years old or over on polling day.
• A UK citizen, qualifying Commonwealth citizen or citizen of the Republic of Ireland.
• Have no legal reason why you cannot vote (for example, convicted of illegal acts linked to an election in the last 5 years).
To vote in the General Election on 7 May, you must be registered by 20 April.

You can find out if you are already registered from your local Electoral Office. Or you could use a website called Vote Booster. It has been set up to help people find out if they are on the register:
www.votebooster.org
Click on ‘for people’.

What is known as ‘mental incapacity’ cannot legally be used as a reason for you to be refused a vote. If you understand what voting means, then the electoral officials must assist you to use your right to vote.

No-one can vote for you if you do not want them to. If you want someone to vote for you, they are called your ‘proxy’. You must trust that the person will vote how you would want to vote. It is not a chance for someone to have a second vote for themselves.
What is the Voting Register?

The register is a list of everyone who can vote. There is a list for every city, town and village. You must be on the register with your current address.

How people register for elections has changed. Now every person in a house must individually register to vote. The old system had one person in a household registering everyone, for example, a mother or father registering both themselves and everyone else over 18 living with them. This is no longer the case. So, if you live with your family, you need to make sure yourself that you are registered to vote.

Every local council checks the register each year. A letter is sent to all addresses. If you have already told the Electoral Office you are at the address, the letter will have your name on it.

If you have moved, even if only to a different house on the same street, you must tell the Electoral Office. If you do not, you will not be able to vote.

If you are in hospital when it will be time to vote, you need to be sure you can vote from the address you are registered at, or change your registration to the hospital address.

You may be able to arrange a postal vote if that would be easier for you. You must arrange your postal vote by 21 April for the 2015 elections.

There are rules about voting from a temporary address. You can find out from your local Electoral Office, or from: www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/

The electoral register can only be used by local authorities, or by credit checking firms to confirm someone’s identity. There is also an ‘open register’ which has some of the information from the electoral register. This can be bought by businesses, or anyone. You can ask your Electoral Office to be taken off the open register if you wish.

You can also ask your electoral office for information about anonymous voting. Strict rules must be met, but it is possible to vote anonymously for people who fear for their safety if their name and address can be seen on the electoral register.

How Voting Works

Every person in the UK who has the right to vote can only vote once in each election. The day people vote on is usually called polling day.

Polling Cards and Polling Stations

Before polling day you will be sent a polling card. It is the proof that you are registered to vote. You can take this to the polling station when you vote, or give your name and address to the person at the polling station.

A polling station is a place set up for polling day with private spaces (booths) for you to go into to vote by filling in a ballot paper.

The polling card tells you what date the election is on and where your local polling station is. If the card has a picture of a wheelchair on it, this means your polling station is wheelchair accessible with assistance.

Not all polling stations are wheelchair accessible. It is better to check a few weeks before the polling day whether your local polling station is accessible, and what you need to do if it is not. You may need to have a postal vote; this takes time to organize. You must apply for a postal vote for the May 2015 elections by 21 April.
Ballot Paper

The ballot paper is the piece of paper with the list of people (candidates) putting themselves forward for election. Next to each person is a box. You put a cross (x) in the box next to the candidate you wish to vote for. You then fold the paper, and put it into a closed box so no one can see who you voted for.

If you write anything else, or make any other marks on the ballot paper it will not be counted. It is called ‘defaced’. Some people choose to deface their ballot paper to show they are not happy with the voting system or there is no one they want to vote for.

Voting by Post

You can choose to vote by post. You need to contact your local Electoral Office. You will then be sent a form to fill in. You cannot have a postal vote without doing this.

Voting by Proxy

You can ask someone else to vote on your behalf. This is called a proxy vote. The person who votes on your behalf should be someone you trust to vote for the candidate you want to vote for. Your Electoral Office will send you a form to arrange a proxy vote.

Assistance for disabled people when voting

Local authorities should now make sure that at least some polling stations are accessible.

If voting is not accessible for you, then electoral officials are supposed to assist. This could be by:
• Giving full details of what assistance is available for you at the polling station.
• Bringing your ballot paper to you, outside an inaccessible polling station.
• Offering a large print ballot paper. You cannot use a large print ballot paper to vote, only for reference.
• Offering a tactile device which is placed over the ballot paper to assist with placing the cross (x) in the correct place.
• Assisting to vote by putting your cross (x) where you instruct them to place it.
Unfortunately, this still leaves many disabled people a long way from fully accessible, independent voting.

Websites With More Information

About My Vote – the government website with information about how to vote, registering to vote and local information.
www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/

All About Voting – easy read information by MENCAP:
www.mencap.org.uk/allaboutvoting

Citizen’s Advice – voting procedures:
http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/law_e/law_civil_rights_e/law_government_and_voting_e/voting_procedures.htm

Electoral Commission – how to vote:
www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/how-to-vote

Every Vote Counts – information in easy read by United Response. Booklets: ‘How Politics Affects Your Life’; ‘How Politics Works’; ‘How To Get Involved’.
http://www.unitedresponse.org.uk/every-vote-counts-resources

Register to vote – .gov.uk – a website to register to vote or change your name or address.
www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Vote Booster – a website set up to encourage disabled people to vote and organisations to support disabled people in finding out more about voting.
www.votebooster.org

Voting In Elections – information from the Royal National Institute of Blind People about assistance for visually impaired voters.
http://www.rnib.org.uk/information-everyday-living-your-rights/voting-and-elections

Access To Elected Office For Disabled People

If you have an interest in being elected as a local Councillor, MP or MEP (European Parliament), there is a fund you can apply to for support with access costs. You can find the information at:
www.access-to-elected-office-fund.org.uk
Contact details For Greater Manchester Electoral Offices

Each local authority webpage listed also has links to other information about elections and voting.

Bolton Elections Office
Third Floor, The Wellsprings, Victoria Square, Bolton, BL1 1US.
Phone: 01204 331248

Email: elections@bolton.gov.uk
Website: http://www.bolton.gov.uk/website/pages/Registeringtovote.aspx
Bury Electoral Services Team
Electoral Services, Town Hall, Knowsley Street, Bury. BL9 0SW
Phone: 0161 253 5113 / 5114

Email: via forms on the web page: http://www.bury.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5670&contactusID=157&ArticleReferenceId=2371
Website: http://www.bury.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=6713
Manchester Electoral Services Unit,
Town Hall, Room 134, Manchester, M60 2LA
Phone: 0161 234 1212

Email: esu@manchester.gov.uk
Website: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/info/362/elections_and_voting
Oldham Elections Office,
Oldham Council, West Street, Oldham, OL1 1UL
Phone: 0161 770 4718

Email: election@oldham.gov.uk
Website: http://www.oldham.gov.uk/info/200038/elections/867/register_to_vote
Rochdale Electoral Services Unit,
PO Box 207, Town Hall, Rochdale OL16 1EW
Phone: 01706 924758

Email: elections@rochdale.gov.uk
Website: http://www.rochdale.gov.uk/the_council/elections/register_to_vote.aspx
Salford Electoral Services
Salford Civic Centre, Chorley Road, Swinton M27 5DA
Phone: 0161 909 6560

Email: elections@salford.gov.uk
Website: http://www.salford.gov.uk/registration.htm
Stockport Electoral Registration Office,
Stockport Town Hall, Wellington Road South, Stockport SK1 3XE
Phone: 0161 217 6026

Email: elections.office@stockport.gov.uk
Website: http://www.stockport.gov.uk/services/councildemocracy/elections/registertovote/
Tameside Elections Office
Tameside MBC, Council Offices, Wellington Road, Ashton under Lyne OL6 6DL
Phone: 0161 342 3036

Email using link on following webpage.
Website: www.Tameside.gov.uk/elections

Trafford Elections Office
PO Box 11, Trafford Town Hall, Talbot Road, Stretford M32 0TH
Phone: 0161 912 4259

Email: elections@trafford.gov.uk
Website: http://www.trafford.gov.uk/about-your-council/elections/register-to-vote.aspx
Wigan Elections Office
Town Hall, Library Street, Wigan, WN1 1YN
Phone: 01942 827168

Email: elections@wigan.gov.uk
Website: https://www.wigan.gov.uk/Council/Voting-and-Elections/How-to-register-to-vote.aspx

If you do not have access to the internet or need support to access further information please feel free to contact a member of staff at GMCDP.

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