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Dame Anne Begg MP: Why every vote should count

United Response

3 min read Partner content

Dame Anne Begg MP calls for all members of the Government to support the Every Vote Counts campaign, created to ensure people with learning disabilities use their fundamental right to vote.

Being able to vote and express an opinion is something that many of us take for granted, but that is not the case for the 1.5 million adults in the UK with learning disabilities.

People with learning disabilities have the same legal entitlement to vote as everyone else, yet the majority of adults with learning disabilities have never voted. A survey, carried out by the national disability charity, United Response, amongst the people that it supports, found that only 1 in 3 voted at the last General Election. This was a significant increase on the 1 in 8 that voted in 2005, but still far below the turnout of the general population.

So why are people with learning disabilities not using their right to vote? That is one of the questions that United Response has set out to answer through its Every Vote Counts campaign. Launched originally in 2007, the campaign seeks to raise awareness of the voting rights of people with learning disabilities, as well as the barriers preventing many from using their vote. Research carried out as part of the campaign has found that a lack of easy to understand information about the political system and voting, as well as a lack of awareness amongst political stakeholders about the needs and rights of this particular group of voters, has meant that historically very few people have been able to use their vote.

Successful campaigning by United Response and other learning disability organisations ahead of the 2010 election saw all three main political parties producing easy read manifestos – a first – and more people with learning disabilities voting than ever before. There is still a long way to go, however, before everyone has the opportunity to use their vote, and that is why United Response is relaunching Every Vote Counts at the House of Commons today, and why I am lending my support to the campaign.

United Response has produced a brand new set of resources and websitewhich are aimed at making politics and voting easy to understand for people with learning disabilities, as well as explaining how politics affects our daily lives. For colleagues in the House, there is a dedicated section of the website, which explains how to make information accessible to constituents with learning disabilities.

Those attending the launch event today will be able to hear directly from people with learning disabilities about why voting is important to them, and what colleagues and political parties can do to make voting easier for this disenfranchised group.

Every Vote Counts is a non-partisan campaign aimed at ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to use their fundamental right to vote and have a say in how this country is run, and that is why I believe colleagues from all sides of the House should join me in lending their support to this incredibly important campaign today. It is the duty of all us to ensure that our constituents are able to use their vote in 2015.

Click here, to read more MP opinions on the campaign.

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