Polls apart

Last night, like most nights, we were out door-knocking, persuading people to vote, and to vote for the Liberal Democrats.

It’s getting easier and easier as people respond to our campaign messages. I was with the Holloway team, going round an estate in N7. One of my canvassers wanted me to go back to a flat he’d already called on: Mum was voting for us, teenage son not sure how or even whether to use his first vote. We chatted to him for a while and listened to his views, which included more f-words a sentence than the whole rest of the day put together. While the air was blue, his vote was golden as he also said he’d vote Lib Dem. Possibly not first choice for a ‘vox pop’ though.

While we work hard getting people to vote, councils have to do their bit making sure people are registered, and that polling stations are accessible. Islington certainly pushes voter registration hard. Registering is only half the battle. At the 2005 General Election, 68% of polling stations across the country had one or more serious access barriers that could prevent a disabled voter from voting independently. This is particularly an issue in rural areas where polling stations can include pubs, barns or even a caravan. But all Councils, urban and rural, have their part to play.

The Polls Apart campaign aims to ensure that disabled people have the same access to Britain’s democracy as everyone else. Islington-based charities Scope and Sense have produced guidance on making voting accessible to people with disabilities. It’s not just about ramps but also simple things like marking the ballot box opening with a white border. The full checklist is here.

Islington has over 33,000 residents with disabilities, so I was keen to know that our Council takes this seriously; I was delighted to get an email from Council leader Terry Stacy in response. He writes:

“I am very happy to report that we comply with all of SCOPE’s recommended practices and use their guide for all our polling stations, which are fully accessible and have a range of aids and adaptations for all types of voters.

“Our Electoral Services Manager has also been working closely with Disability Action in Islington and the Deaf community, recently holding an open session to talk through their concerns. Other council departments, such as Housing & Adult Social Services, have also been involved in these talks to ensure that we support anyone with a disability or learning difficulty through the election process.

“Islington Council has been very proactive in ensuring that we not only increase the numbers on the electoral roll but hopefully make it easier for people to come out and vote.”

If you still need to register, you can get more information here. Final deadline for voting on 6 May is 20 April, just over 10 weeks away. Back to the canvassing!

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