Voters with learning disabilities left disenfranchised, says charity

By staff writers
January 24, 2010

As few as 16 per cent of British adults with learning disabilities are exercising their right to vote, according to newly published research. Campaigners say that hundreds of thousands are left disenfranchised.

The charity United Response, who carried out the research over three years, say that around half a million adults with learning disabilities in England have the capacity to vote but do not do so.

They are aiming to increase the turnout to 40 per cent in this year’s general election which is expected in May. They are also urging political parties to make their manifestos more accessible.

United Response say that there is a low awareness of the right to vote amongst many people with learning disabilities. Their research found that the situation is exacerbated by the use of jargon and the complexities of the system.

“People with learning disabilities are affected by decisions made at a national and local level in the same way as everyone else” said Su Sayer, United Response’s chief executive, “Yet information about the democratic process is often presented in a way which is confusing and full of jargon. As a result, many people who would like to vote currently find themselves excluded.”

A website called Every Vote Counts has now been launched to assist people with learning disabilities to vote. It also provides resources for parties and candidates wishing to engage with voters.

“Everyone should have a say in how the country is run,” said Mark, 20, who has learning disabilities, “People should definitely vote if they want things to change. I was too young to vote at the last general election and voting is not something that has really taken my interest before, but I can now see through Every Vote Counts why it is important.”

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