Blind woman’s court fight for right to vote on her own
A BLIND woman has been given the go-ahead to challenge the Government in the High Court over its alleged failure to make arrangements allowing her to vote independently.
Rachael Andrews claims the tactile voting device (TVD), which fits over the ballot paper to allow a person to mark an X in a particular place, does not allow blind people to vote without assistance as they still need someone to read the names of the candidates and the order in which they appear on the ballot.
At a hearing in London this week, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker said her claim that the device was unlawful was arguable and granted permission for a judicial review.
David Lock QC, for Ms Andrews, told the judge the device needed to enable blind or partially sighted voters to vote “without any need for assistance from the presiding officer or any companion”, which it currently did not.
The Government argued the claim was academic as it was addressing the issue and had published a response to a consultation in August.
But Mr Lock said that response was “only published after the proceedings were commenced” and there was “no published timetable for new rules to be published” and “no guarantee that there will be any change to the rules before the next general election”.
Ms Andrews, 45, and from Norwich, successfully settled a previous claim against Broadland District Council for failing to have the TVD available for the 2015 general election.
She said: “I have always voted in general elections.
“I see it as a very important civic duty and feel very strongly that I should simply be afforded the same right to vote independently and in secret as everyone else.
“Despite all the technological advances now available that enable people with disabilities to lead an independent life, I find it immensely depressing that, when it comes to voting, one of the most important responsibilities a person has in a democracy, the only aid available to a blind voter is a piece of plastic that doesn’t really work.
“I am keen that the Government stops dragging its feet and takes action to allow me to vote independently and secretly in time for the next general election.”
Her solicitor Sean Humber, head of Leigh Day’s human rights department, said: “The provisions made for blind voters by the government are quite simply not fit for purpose.”