I’m Not Cross

Each time I’ve gone to vote, I ask where the large print ballot paper is that every polling station is obliged to display by law. It’s usually pinned on a wall which means that just about anyone who needs to read large print won’t be able to get near enough to read it. Polling station staff are obliging and generally proffer a close up look. I have no qualms about disconnecting the large ballot paper from the wall.

All blind and partially sighted people are supposed to be able to exercise their right to vote in private, polling station staff are not backward in coming forward to make this happen. I’ve been repeatedly invited to make use of the publicly available magnifying glass that is next to useless for anyone with a severe sight impairment.

“Off the shelf” magnifiers are designed for the majority of people who aren’t blind or partially sighted. I know this because my optician told me so. I also know this because every time one of friends finds themselves bereaved by the loss of a parent, I am bequeathed the magnification detritus of the much loved dead relative who proudly managed to maintain a driving licence until the bitter end.

Every polling station is also supposed to have a tactile overlay that goes over the ballot paper so that blind people can put their “X” in the right spot. It’s supposed to enable privacy in the polling booth. One blind voter reported the polling station officer being so close to him that he could feel her breath. It’s also notoriously prone to fail and likely to lead to a spoiled ballot. There’s a cracking film about how this doesn’t work. It’s right up there with the Cheap Flights. Here’s the Link

If you are blind you can vote by proxy. I can’t think of anything worse than giving my vote to someone else to cast for me. What if they made a mistake?

I tried the postal vote. Free to use my own made to measure magnification it worked at a functional level. I cast my vote in the European election by post and then spent the day fretting that it might have got lost in the post.

There is no getting away from it. I like the ritual of the polling station and seeing all those nice, and not so nice, folk sitting on picnic chairs in the car park asking me if I would mind telling them how I voted. I don’t mind a bit because by that point anyone who happened to be milling around the voting booth knows how I voted because I have already told the polling station staff who I wanted to vote for because that’s the surest way to make sure I’ve put my “X” in the right place.

When I go to cast my vote, I never bother with the privacy of drawing the miserable curtain so that I can confer with staff in a whisper. It seems unnatural to have four legs poking out from behind the curtain. I’m not a bashful type but who knows what people might think.

Why not have telephone voting or voting on line? While I would miss the rituals of the polling station there are plenty who wouldn’t. It’s controversial I know. With many Brits choosing not to vote, embracing the tools that so many of us use every day has got to be worth a try if voting is not to become a die hard activity. After all, the ballot was once a controversial innovation.

Blind and partially sighted people are less likely to vote than their sighted peers. Like so many things that might have had their origins in solutions for people who can’t see, I bet telephone and on line voting would go a fair way to getting the voter numbers up amongst the population in general, let alone for those of us who find it a challenge to vote.

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