500,000 people with learning disabilities in England who have capacity to vote are not voting, more than half of all people with learning disabilities

Local MP Bill Wiggin attended the “Every Vote Counts” campaign launch in the House of Commons this week. The campaign by the disability charity United Response and funded by the Electoral Commission explores why so many people with learning disabilities are excluded from the democratic process and revealed that as few as 16% of people with learning disabilities – many in Leominster- voted in the last election, compared with a national turnout of 61%.

Bill Wiggin MP

“Hundreds of thousands of people with learning disabilities feel excluded from democracy, because they are unaware of their right to vote or find the system complex. This means they are missing out on their say in the future of their country. I welcome the work of the Every Vote Counts campaign in making democracy more accessible to voters.”

The “Every Vote Counts” campaign urges all political parties to engage with the hundreds of thousands of voters with learning disabilities who are eligible to vote, but do not; particularly important when a low turnout rate is a major concern for all political parties.

The report is the culmination of a three-year project and aims to increase voter turnout among people with learning disabilities to at least 40% and for all main political parties to provide manifestos which are in a format that is easy to understand for people with learning disabilities.

A website was also launched – www.everyvotecounts.org.uk – which includes easy-read explanations of democracy and voting for people with learning disabilities. It also includes a five point guide for MPs hoping to make their own information more accessible.

Su Sayer OBE, United Response founder and chief executive

“People with learning disabilities are affected by decisions made at a national and local level in the same way as everyone else. 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, something we hope this campaign will change during the 2010 election and beyond.”