Elections and voting

Another topical issue to consider.

Everybody in England over the age of 16 who is a British, Irish, or Commonwealth citizen or (currently) a citizen of another EU country should be registered to vote.

The issue of voting is one of a very limited number of areas that is excluded from the Mental Capacity Act’s provisions for making decisions for another adult. Even people who might arguably not have capacity to vote have a right to do so. This is perhaps particularly important for people who have lost capacity due to a brain injury or dementia who would be quite rightly angry at being prevented from doing something everybody else is allowed and encouraged to do. But it is also important in terms of engagement with wider society for learning disabled adults.

People with two addresses, which would include pupils attending a residential school are entitled to be registered at both addresses (though can only vote once in each election).

If you do want to vote in person and your polling station is too far away for you to easily get there, you may find your local political parties are willing to offer you a lift to the polling station on election day.

It is relatively easy to apply for a postal vote and for some disabled people, it will be easier to vote privately at home with time to consider the ballot paper. Although large print ballot papers are available at polling stations, which will help some people, the arrangements for visually impaired people to mark ballot papers are poor and rely on a tactile device placed over the ballot paper.

People who are detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 can vote by post/proxy (with the exception of those detained because they have been convicted of a crime). The same would be true for people who are deprived of their liberty in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act 2005 – whether authorised by way of the DOLS procedure or by a Court Ordere.

People who care for disabled friends and family might also prefer to vote by post rather than be committed to travelling to a polling station.

It is slightly more complicated to apply for a proxy vote, but it can be done. This is worth considering for anybody who prefers to vote in person but who has a fluctuating condition (so might be unable to go to the polling station on election day) or who has complicated travelling arrangements for work.

There are deadlines to apply for postal and proxy votes some weeks before elections are held, so it is worth sorting one of these out (or both – it is possible to vote by post as a proxy for someone else) at a time when there is no pressing election.

Where someone has an emergency after the deadline to apply for postal/proxy votes, it is possible to be granted an emergency proxy vote up to 5pm on polling day eg. if you’re in an accident and break a leg.