In advance of local elections in 2016 in the United Kingdom, Mencap created an introductory video for friends or family members on how to provide appropriate support for voters with learning disabilities.
Narrator (woman): It’s election time and it’s all everyone’s talking about. You might have decided who to vote for, but what about the people you support? If someone wants to vote, they can. It’s their legal right, regardless of learning ability. You just need to understand how you can help them to do it.
Step one, registration. Registering to vote just requires filling in a form, either by hand or doing it online. Remember, when registering you’ll need to talk to the person you support about the various ways they can vote in different ways for different people, but more about this later. Once they’re all registered, you should chat about what’s important to them. What do they want to see change? How should the government’s money be spent? Who’s going to do a good job?
Depending on the needs and wants of the person you support, it might be a good idea to get key people involved in on the conversation who are usually involved in the person’s decisions, like their parents. And let’s face it, politics can be pretty complex, so use the easy read manifestos each party to help. They spell out what each party believes in and what they plan to do.
Also, encourage the person you support to ask questions of their local candidate. Hustings are a great way to do this. You can talk to candidates face to face and hear what they have to say. This can help the person you support make their final choice.
So, decision made. Now for voting. There are three ways the person you support can vote. They may want to vote by post. You can help them fill in the form and send it off a couple of weeks before Election Day. They may want you to vote for them. This is called voting by proxy, it means you can visit a polling station to vote on their behalf. Always respect the decision of the person you’re supporting. Don’t get carried away with your own views. Remember, this is their vote. If the person you support is voting for themselves on Election Day, you can go with them so they know what to expect and even help fill in their ballot paper.
Seeing someone exercise their right to vote is an amazing moment, and it’s something you’ve helped make happen by putting in a little extra work. For more info and resources on how to support people with a learning disability to vote, visit mecap.org.uk/allaboutvoting
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