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Assembly aims to help break down barriers to engagement ahead of 2011 votes.

12 January 2011

The National Assembly for Wales and Welsh Government will host an event today (12 January) aimed at raising awareness of barriers to democratic engagement faced by disabled people.

The event forms part of a wider campaign (Vote 2011) by the National Assembly to encourage people to use their vote in the three polls this year.

On 3 March the people of Wales will be asked to decide the future powers of the National Assembly for Wales. On 5 May they will also have the opportunity to vote in the National Assembly election and on whether MPs in Westminster should be elected through a different system of voting.

The Widening Engagement event will promote the importance of registering to vote and look at barriers to voting, such as accessibility at polling stations. The Welsh Government’s Minister for Social Justice and Local Government, Carl Sargeant AM, will sponsor the event and the National Assembly’s Presiding Officer, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, will also address the audience. A panel of representatives from Disability Wales, the Welsh Local Government Association and Scope will also take part in a question and answer session.

Presiding Officer, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, said: “2011 is a very important year for us all here in Wales. Not only will we be asked to choose who represents us in the Senedd, but also whether those elected representatives should have more powers to make Welsh laws.

“The importance of democratic participation is as important as ever and we want to make sure everyone in Wales has the opportunity to have their say.

“Today’s event will look at barriers to participation and ways to encourage as many people as possible to get involved in shaping the future of devolution in our country.”

The Social Justice and Local Government Minister, Carl Sargeant AM, said, “We live in a society where the people decide who they want in power and, unusually, also in 2011 to decide for themselves on issues of democracy.

“Every voter is equal in that process – there are no extra votes for the wealthy, the educated, or the able-bodied. Let’s make sure that everyone knows how to register and is able to vote. We have a feast of opportunity over the next year and a half; let’s make the most of it.”

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