Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Channel 4 report highlights ‘exclusionary’ nature of new voter registration advert

A new Channel 4 report, presented by Ruben Reuter, highlights the exclusionary nature of the Electoral Commission’s new ad campaign which encourages members of the British public to register to vote.

The Electoral Commission says their new campaign celebrates the ‘feel-good factor’ of participating in democracy. However, Ruben, disability campaigners and charities say the ad excludes people with learning disabilities.

Disability charities ‘disappointed’ at the lack of representation

The Electoral Commission has been working with a coalition of learning disability groups known as My Vote, My Voice. Despite this, Channel 4 discovered ahead of the ad campaign’s launch that it would not represent people with learning disabilities.

The report showcases an an email from a representative at the Electoral Commission, who said they were unable to cast someone with a learning disability due to funding constraints, as people with learning disabilities require a care or support worker on set.

However, the national election commission says it has diverted some budget to ensure bespoke campaign resources (such as social media graphics) are circulated alongside the main campaign.

Ismail Kaji, Parliamentary and Government Engagement Officer at Mencap, told Channel 4 he was “disappointed” at the lack of representation in the advert. Mencap and Dimensions called for the advert to be reshot, but their request was unsuccessful.

Ruben then set out to create his own inclusive campaign involving those with learning disabilities. He asked Niki Nixon, Head of Communication at the Electoral Commission, why they did not include people with learning disabilities in their campaign when Channel 4 managed it with ‘no money’.

Ms Nixon said: “It’s really tricky to get everybody that is in an under registered group included. There are lots of different groups that are under registered – older people, homeless people, as well as people with disabilities. We can’t fit everyone into that 30 second video, but that’s why we’ve made these additional resources.”

‘A missed opportunity’

The learning disability and autism charity United Response said the lack of representation is concerning given the electoral body’s recent work on accessible voting.

Ali Gunn, Head of Public Affairs at United Response said: “We all know that very few people with learning disabilities vote, and many do not even know they have the right to vote. The My Vote My Voice campaign was set up to tackle this and we have worked with the Electoral Commission over the past year to help improve accessible voting.

“However, we were concerned about the lack of representation in their planned multiyear advert and it felt like a missed opportunity to reach a community who is often overlooked. We believe that representation can make a difference to so many people who currently feel our democracy isn’t shaped with them in mind.”

Local elections will be held in May, with a general election expected to occur later in the year. Those who wish to vote in May must be registered to vote by 16th April.

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