Norfolk election officials have received complaints about the ballot papers being used in this week's poll, with voters saying their purple colour means they are difficult to read.

Disability groups have called for the Norwich City Council ballots to be re-printed and re-distributed due to concerns that the design is preventing people with visual impairments from exercising their right to vote.

They say that the dark grey text against a purple background is too pale for those with limited vision to interpret and could result in people selecting the wrong candidate by accident, or discourage them from voting at all.

Council officials have acknowledged the issue, saying the colour contrast is not as distinct as they had agreed with the printers.

But they have resisted calls to reprint the documents, saying anyone with concerns can contact them for impartial support.

However, Lucy Galvin, leader of the Green Party at City Hall, and James Wright, leader of the Liberal Democrats, are lodging an official complaint with the council's chief executive, Louise Rawsthorne, who as returning officer is responsible for the conduct of the election. 

Eastern Daily Press: Lucy Galvin and James Wright have been approached by concerned votersLucy Galvin and James Wright have been approached by concerned voters (Image: Eleanor Storey)In a joint statement, they said: "We have had comments from voters that the paper and ink colours are too similar and made it difficult for them.

"We are concerned about the impact for people with any kind of sight impairment, and also those with dyslexia, colour blindness and older eyes.

"The Electoral Commission says that the ballot paper needs to be designed in a way that makes it easy for the voter to understand what the ballot paper is for, find their chosen candidate or party, mark their choice in such a way that their vote is valid, and reflects their intention.

"They should be designed in a way that means the voter’s choice can be clearly identified when the votes are counted. There is not enough contrast on the papers - the mauve is too dark and the grey type does not stand out enough.

"This is extremely concerning. We ask that the council put up extra signage at polling stations stating that if there is any issue reading the ballot paper, the presiding officer can offer assistance.

"We also ask that the council look into how this happened, and bring in an effective checking process so that we can be assured that all steps are taken to make sure all ballot papers are fully accessible and legally compliant in the future."

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Eastern Daily Press: The Police and Crime Commissioner ballot, in yellow, and the Nelson ward ballot, in purpleThe Police and Crime Commissioner ballot, in yellow, and the Nelson ward ballot, in purple (Image: Eleanor Storey)While the colours of ballots are not prescribed, Electoral Commission guidance states the importance of contrast and using dark text on pale backgrounds.

The problem was first noted when people who had registered for a postal vote for the city council elections received their ballot papers through the mail.

The same forms will be used by those voting in polling stations on Thursday.

Rachael Andrews, vice chair of disability charity Inclusive Norwich, said: "This is extremely odd and needs to be corrected as a matter of urgency.

"These ballots have to be redesigned or people will be very confused on election day.

"It's fairly common sense that you would make the text as visible as possible. You can't be confident that you're voting in the way that you want if you can't read the ballot.

"This is going to cause problems for people who are older or have visibility impairments."


This week's local elections are being keenly anticipated as a barometer for how the parties may fare in a general election later this year.

However, in Norfolk, there is relatively little up for grabs this week.

Although there are a handful of byelections elsewhere in the county, Norwich is the only authority with a council-wide vote.

There will be 13 seats at stake - one in each of Norwich's three-member wards. 

Eastern Daily Press: The election is approaching at City HallThe election is approaching at City Hall (Image: Denise Bradley)The Labour Party, the largest group on the council, lost its overall majority amid a string of resignations in November and its members will be standing against those from Reform UK and the Communist Party of Britain, which has not had a candidate in the election since 1980.

The election for Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner will take place on the same day.

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: “We are disappointed that the colour contrast on the city council’s local election ballot papers is not as distinct as we had agreed with the printer we used for this job.

“We haven’t had complaints from individual voters. However, should anyone have any difficulty completing their ballot paper they can contact the elections team for impartial support. Every postal ballot pack includes full details of how to contact us for assistance.

“We very much want everyone eligible to cast their vote and be part of the amazing democratic process which allows elected members to represent people in their communities.”