With local elections just around the corner, it’s a good time to remember that people with dementia have the same right to vote as everyone else.
The right to vote
No one can be prevented from voting just because they have dementia.
It is important we send this message far and wide to ensure that people with dementia have an equal voice in their communities up and down the country.
Dementia and voting
Everyone with dementia has a right to vote. The Mental Capacity Act, which provides a framework for making decisions on behalf of people who lack capacity to make a decision, does not apply to voting. It is up to the person to decide if they want to vote.
However, there are some barriers that people with dementia may face when the time comes to go to the polls. It may be that someone needs support to vote, for example, being reminded to go to their polling station on the right date and getting to the right place.
Registering to vote
To take part in the local elections you must be registered to vote in person, by post or by proxy.
The deadline for registering to vote in the elections on 6 May has now passed. If you have registered to vote already, you can find more information for each of the options below.
How to vote in person
If you have registered to vote in person, polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on 6 May (‘polling day’).
Local authorities have a responsibility to make sure that polling stations are accessible, and the Electoral Commission provides advice and guidance on the steps they can take to do this. If you do need any assistance, you can ask the staff at your polling station.
A person with dementia has the option of bringing along a companion to assist them to vote in person. The companion must be a close relative (spouse, civil partner, son or daughter). You should ask the permission of the Presiding Officer at the polling station if you want to be assisted by a companion.
How to vote by post
If you have applied to vote by post, you will receive a postal ballot pack.
Once your postal voting pack arrives, complete your ballot paper and as soon as you are ready to return your vote, take it to the post box yourself.
If you can't post it yourself, you can either ask someone you know and trust to post it for you, or you can contact the elections team at your local council to ask if they can collect it from you.
The elections team at your local council will need to receive your postal vote by 10pm on polling day.
If you can't post your postal vote pack in time, you can take it to your polling station or to your local council on polling day.
How to vote by proxy
Anyone can appoint someone else to vote on their behalf. This is called voting by proxy. Your proxy is not allowed to make a decision about who to vote for – they just fulfil your wishes.
Although you don’t need mental capacity to vote, the Electoral Commission does require you to have mental capacity to appoint and maintain a proxy.
If you have already applied to vote by proxy, here is what your appointed proxy needs to do on polling day.
The person you have appointed as your proxy will need to go to your polling station to cast your vote. They will then vote on your behalf, but in doing so they must vote the way you have instructed them too.
They will receive a proxy poll card telling them where and when to cast your vote for you.
It’s important to note that if you have made a Lasting Power of Attorney, your attorney cannot vote on your behalf. Only someone you have appointed to act as your proxy can cast your vote on your behalf, but in doing so must follow your wishes.
This post was updated and republished in April 2021.
Making your voice heard
By voting on 6 May, you have the chance to make sure your local authority reflects your values. Find out more about how we work with local governments and how to make your voice heard.