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This review explores the accessibility of the democratic process in Wales and suggests measures for its improvement, using evidence from other comparable nations, both within the UK and internationally.

Main findings

  • Research undertaken in the US and in Europe in recent decades on the political participation of disabled people found voter turnout to be lower amongst disabled people than non-disabled people, and more so amongst those who were older, poorer or with significant mobility impairments (Schur et al., 2002; Priestley, 2016). 
  • Being disabled is itself a statistically significant determining characteristic for turnout and is associated with a lower likelihood of voting. 
  • Poor health and disabilities can affect both the amount of participation and the way people participate; these factors depress traditional participation and are linked to disappointment with the political system and low levels of trust and external efficacy (Mattila, 2022).
  • Disabled voters face numerous potential barriers to their political participation compared to non-disabled people, including a lack of access to information; logistical challenges relating to the location of the polling station; problems within the polling station itself; and difficulties with the experience of voting.
  • Possible adaptations to in-person voting at polling stations include ensuring that locations are accessible by all modes of transport and with disabled parking available; ensuring a clear, obstacle-free route through the polling station; and creating processes to deal with queues for those who require it.
  • Remote voting should not be seen as an easy alternative to in-person voting, as many people, including disabled people, prefer to vote in person. Nonetheless, there are ways that remote voting of all kinds can be expanded and improved to maximise accessibility across the board.
  • Polling stations should be audited for accessibility issues between elections and any identification of problems should lead to solutions which will remove barriers.
  • Those managing elections in Wales should ensure that all pre-election materials (including registration forms and ballot papers) sent out via post are available in accessible formats, such as easy-read, illustrated and large print versions, braille and tactile versions and adapted to various languages including British Sign Language.
  • Possible changes to the electoral system may include a relaxation of the restrictions regarding when and where voters would be required to vote (Peixoto Gomes et al., 2022); automatically registering voters, or allowing voters to register to vote on polling day; and moving from First Past the Post (FPTP) to an alternative, more proportional voting system.



Nerys Owens

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