Signal Boost: Disenfranchisement at its Worst

Jady Lady describes her experience as a blind vote in today’s election in the UK

It was only whilst walking home with my partner that we compared notes. It appeared that my template had been placed fairly close to the left hand edge of the form, and my partner’s had been nearer the middle of the form. We phoned a friend and asked where the boxes appear on the ballot paper and were told that they are down the right hand side.

It would therefore appear that both our bballot papers are spoilt and we haven’t had a vote in this very important election.

If I never campaign for anything else in my life, I’m determined to get my voice heard on this one.

If you read this, I would urge you, please circulate it as widely as possible. I want as many people to realise how open to error the voting system is for blind people.

Our right to independence relies wholly on a sighted person to line the template up for us, and we have no way of checking that the vote has been cast properly.

I wonder how many other blind people’s ballot papers have been unknowingly spoilt today?

Read the whole thing.

By 7 May, 2010.    Uncategorized   



3 Comments

  1. Cross-posted as a comment on the original blog –

    I was vote counting today and we accept votes purely on intention as represented by the evidence. I think this is standard across the country, otherwise it would be unfair to voters in constituencies where the guidelines were not so forgiving.
    The worst that would have happened is that your vote would have been put in a disputed pile, shown by the count supervisor to the observers from all parties who show an interest (for us they were very respectful of the apparent intentions of the voter and more than happy to agree all such papers at face value), and then counted as normal with as much confidence as any other vote. You could have drawn a spiral, or a heart, or whatever you wanted as long as it was clear that you wished to indicate support for a certain candidate. In our count, votes were allowed even when a voter had crossed out a wrong entry and started again as long as it was totally clear what they meant to express.
    I hope that this eases your mind a little bit after what must have been a distressing and worrying time.
    This in no way excuses anyone who made you feel uncomfortable or unhappy with your voting experience. Your satisfaction that the electoral process was carried out fairly and to your satisfaction should have been as important (if not more important given the increased potential for you to be made to feel excluded or uncertain) as any other voter’s experience.
    As a point of interest, how are ballot papers made legible to blind/partially-sighted voters? Is there braille on the guide you use? How is it done for those who don’t read braille? I would love to know.
    Regards,
    Cicee.

  2. Although I’m not in the UK, I’d like to echo what Cicee said above. When I worked processing votes once, we did the same thing. Although, I don’t know how votes are processed in the UK general election. Ours (for the local body election that I worked on) are processed electronically by character recognition software and then checked against a scanned copy – NOT the original unless the scan is unclear. I would be inclined to say that if your vote(s) were made in the wrong place on the page, that it/they might get missed unless you have a particularly aware person processing your particular vote(s). Personally, I picked up a vote that had been made in *green highlighter* because the scan had picked up one or two pixels of it. The person who checked that vote before me did NOT pick up on it. I have no idea whether the 3rd step of checking would have picked up on that.

    While people might feel reassured by Cicee’s statement, I wouldn’t guarantee that every vote that is only slightly invalid would be picked up. It is really shameful that a better system isn’t in place to allow people who have difficulty voting on the default papers to have their vote.

    Also the talk of a “template” worries me, as over here our voting forms are put in a random order, and there are several different random configurations that they can be in.

    I would post this over at the original, but Livejournal is blocked where I am now. If some kind person would like to reproduce my comment over there (and attribute it to me) you will have my thanks (as I can’t guarantee I’ll remember to visit this from a computer that doesn’t have Livejournal blocked)

  3. It’s all human-powered over here, no machines. It’s quite beautiful, all those people in the same place literally making sure democracy is carried out, moving the wheels of the democratic system by hand. If a vote was discounted it would be because when the sorter picked it up they could not figure out which pile to put it in or thought that it contained some mark which might discount it. This decision would have to be seconded and thirded, with whether ‘clear intention’ is shown always being the guiding principle. Plus all the time counters are constantly observed by the party representatives who will jump on anything they think will give them a lead over their opponents. I hope we never move to automated counting. Having used machines to count cash I am appalled at the accuracy rate compared to human counting. For the interested, our ballot papers have all the candidates in alphabetical order from top to bottom, so providing you know the names of the candidates I can see how you could use a template, but if you forgot one then it would be difficult to know what any of them were.