My name is Danny, I have a learning disability, and I am interested in politics. I know that decisions politicians make about benefits, social care and hospitals can have a big impact on my life.
Sadly, for many people with a learning disability there can be a lot of barriers to us voting. Some people still question whether we should be allowed to vote because of having a learning disability. There’s also a lot of jargon and complicated language used by politicians and in voter registration processes.
I’m really worried about a new barrier coming in to this year’s local elections and maybe all elections in the future. On 3rd May this year, people are being asked to bring ID to the polling station in six boroughs in London as a trial.
This is a worry for me and many others with a learning disability. It’s so important for people like us to have a voice on issues that impact our lives.
I want to vote, but as is the case for many people with a learning disability, I don’t have a driving licence or passport * If these are needed to vote going forward, it will be another barrier that is hard for us to get through without support.
The learning disability charity, Mencap, where I work in the press office every Friday, has been pushing for years to make sure more people like me are able to have their say and use their right to vote. This is why a new process that could prevent many people using that right is really frustrating.
Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking are all taking part in the trials on 3rd May this year. Some places will simply ask to see your polling card, some will accept any ID from a bus pass to library card, while others will only accept ID with a photo like a passport or a driving licence. After this election the Government will then choose which system they think worked best and roll it out nationally for the next General Election.
I understand the Government want to prevent voter fraud, but it also needs to remember that not everyone has all types of ID. For me, for example, being able to produce my bus pass would be perfect – this is something I always have to hand and a type of ID that many people with a learning disability will already have. Limiting me to a passport or driving licence, however, would rule out voting for me completely, which would be very sad and unfair.
Another point to make is that once the Government has chosen the form(s) of ID it wants people to present, it needs to make a real effort to get that information out there and communicate it clearly to everyone. This needs to come long before the next election and be in an easy to understand – easy read – guide for people with a learning disability.
I think it’s also helpful if information is made available to the families and carers of people with a learning disability, so they can help with making sure we have the right ID. I’m very lucky to have my fiancé who helps me with these things, she’s a fantastic support, but if I didn’t have her I’d be pretty lost. I think I’d just give up and wouldn’t bother voting at all! Sadly, there’ll be many other people out there who will do just that and we shouldn’t let this happen!
*People with a learning disability are some of the poorest people in our society, and often cannot afford to go on holiday abroad which in turn means many do not have passports.