Blog Every Vote Counts: encouraging democratic participation among people with learning disabilities in the EU Referendum On 23rd June, the UK will settle an ongoing question that's been dominating British politics for a generation: should Britain remain within the European Union, or leave Europe and go it alone? This week, United Response has relaunched its Every Vote Counts campaign, focusing on the upcoming EU referendum. The campaign aims to make information about the referendum and the voting process easier to understand for the 1.5 million adults in the UK who have a learning disability. We want to encourage as many of this group as possible to make use of accessible information and use their knowledge to make an informed choice in this important democratic decision for the UK. We’re encouraging people with learning disabilities to check they are registered to vote, to get informed with our accessible information and resources, and then to go out and vote on 23rd June. Breaking down barriers Since the 2005 General Election, United Response has been successfully breaking down barriers to increase the numbers of voters among people with learning disabilities. We found that many people we support really want to vote – but that often they don’t vote because information about voting and politics is hard to understand and inaccessible. We also found a lack of understanding among politicians and those involved in running elections about the needs of people with learning disabilities. At the last General Election in 2015, Every Vote Counts managed to break this trend. We campaigned hard to raise awareness that people with learning disabilities have the same right to vote as anybody else. Voters were helped by the Every Vote Counts campaign, which provided accessible information on politics and democracy through a dedicated website and additional accessible resources. United Response also employed Easy News's UR Consultants to translate the main political parties’ manifestos in an Easy News special, as well as linking to each party’s easy read manifesto. Our news correspondent, David Allkins, reported on the issues of accessible information and disability, successfully raising awareness with video messages of support from all five of the main political parties in the election, including Prime Minister David Cameron. The Electoral Commission reinforced its message, so that staff at polling stations were aware that, under the law, everyone over 18 years old who meets nationality and residency criteria has the right to vote. And, importantly, that no disability is a barrier to democratic participation. As a result, 43% of people we support voted - a 10% increase on the proportion that voted in the 2010 General Election. Registering to vote On 23rd June, the British people will have the opportunity to cast a single vote over the future of the United Kingdom’s membership within the European Union. But changes in how people register to vote as individuals rather than households have seen many people removed from the electoral register over recent months. This will include a disproportionately large number of people with learning disabilities, a group who have traditionally found themselves disenfranchised due to barriers to voting. United Response is encouraging people with learning disabilities and those who support them to check that they are registered to vote in the run-up to the referendum by contacting their local electoral registration office. Find your local electoral registration office If you're sure you're not registered to vote - say, because you have moved house since the 2015 General Election - you can do so online. Register online nowThe deadline to register to vote in the EU Referendum is Tuesday 7th June 2016. Information about voting, taking part in referendums and the European Union People with learning disabilities can find accessible information about referendums, the process of registering to vote and the European Union by visiting our Every Vote Counts website, which has links to all these areas on the home page. Visit our Every Vote Counts website Easy News Consultants from our award-winning accessible current affairs magazine, Easy News, will also be producing a special issue covering the arguments from both the ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ campaigns in our usual unbiased and accessible format. The Easy News ‘EU Referendum Special’ will be published online on Tuesday 10th May. To get your copy, or if you want to let someone know, subscribe to Easy News. You can also subscribe to our Every Vote Counts newsletter, which will be providing key information in the coming months. Our news correspondent David Allkins will be investigating the EU referendum with a video report. To follow David’s reports and the latest from United Response, subscribe to our YouTube channel. As a charity, United Response always remains politically neutral. And we remain so on the issue of Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. Our role is to provide as much accessible information as possible to voters with a learning disability, and to urge the official ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ camps to do the same. As part of this, United Response will be contacting the official lead campaigns, Vote Leave and Britain Stronger In Europe, announced by the Electoral Commission this week. We will be asking both sides to make information available to people with a learning disability in an accessible way, so as to engage and include this important section of the electorate. The question of Britain’s membership in the European Union has implications in many different areas, for all the British people. And all voters have an important decision to make on what they think is best for Britain’s future. United Response want the people we support to have enough accessible information to make an informed decision about whether Britain should remain part of the EU, and to encourage all eligible voters with a learning disability to take part. Find out more Follow our blogs over the coming months to find out more about the campaign, and remember to sign up to the Every Vote Counts newsletter! Subscribe to our Every Vote Counts newsletter John JC Cooper, campaigns and public affairs manager.