Half of Polling Stations Lacked Step-Free Access

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s interim report into this week’s General Election has said that disabled access to polling stations was ‘feasible but difficult’.

The CPA will reproduce a full report by the end of November, a press conference was held this morning which can be seen below, as can the interim report.

Throughout polling day, members of the CPA visited 44 out of the 56 polling stations across the 12 constituencies and observed the count in four consistencies.

They found that while the election ran smoothly, observers also identified several areas for improvement, including polling station accessibility.

In a statement, the CPA said: ‘The Mission also found that half of all polling stations observed were not independently accessible to voters with mobility issues because of a lack of an adequate step-free access.’

The Head of Mission, Stewart Dickson MLA from Northern Ireland this morning told a press conference that while a ramp would be made available upon request at many stations and other adjustments could be made, this singled out disabled people and meant they didn’t have the access they should have without having to ask.

Female Candidates

While the island has elected a record 10 female candidates, they do seem to have targeted more for abuse both in terms of damaging signs and posters and online abuse on social media. The mission said they found this ‘worrying’.

Deputy Returning Officers

The CPA mission noted that there is limited training provided for deputy returning officers and while this won’t have altered results, there are concerns about a lack of standard practice being followed at different polling stations.

The statement said: ‘ Training for Deputy Returning Officers appears to be limited, and the interpretation and implementation of the legal framework for the electoral process is determined by individual Deputy Returning Officers. This led to regulations being implemented differently across constituencies, although this did not seem to affect the integrity of the process as a whole.’

A further point was made that polling staff were only being trained ‘at the opening of the polls’. The mission said: ‘This should not be considered an appropriate method of training.’

Ballot Problems

The report also confirms that one party candidate, who Gef believes was a Green Party candidate, did not have his party printed onto the ballot paper alongside his name. While it isn’t possible to say if this would’ve altered any results, this is in breach of Regulation 20(2)(c) of the Elections (Keys) Regulations 2021. In another incident, an unknown number of ballot papers were printed black.

Boundaries

The other minor area that is highlighted in this report is of boundary delimitation (where boundaries go) while a review is understood to be planned of these, the mission found that ‘the governing principles of equality and of an independent review are not spelled out in law. This limits the transparency of boundary delimitation’.

Mr Dickson said: ‘Following extensive and inclusive electoral reform, the Isle of Man has delivered a well-administered and competitive election. Innovative practices were successfully implemented. Despite efforts made, further improvements are still needed in terms of polling station accessibility and the consistency of the administration of the election.’

You can read the report here.

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