With a General Election 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 regardless of capacity. 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. This means that a lack of mental capacity does not stop someone from being able to vote. 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.
To vote in the General Election you must be registered to vote in person, by post or by proxy.
However you decide to vote, there are strict rules and deadlines you will need to adhere to. You can find more information for each of the options below.
Voting in person
The deadline to register to vote in person is by 11.59pm on Tuesday 26 November 2019.
Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on 12 December (‘polling day’). You can get help registering from your local Electoral Registration Office. If you live in Northern Ireland you will need to contact the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland.
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 the 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.
Voting by post
Anyone can apply to vote by post. People living in a care home can ask staff to help with getting registered and/or arranging a postal vote.
You must apply by 5pm on Tuesday 26 November to receive your postal voting pack.
Once you have completed the form and made sure you have signed it, you need to return it to your electoral registration office.
If you're not sure if you already have a postal vote, contact your electoral registration office to find out. You will need to complete a new postal vote application if you have moved house.
In Northern Ireland there is a different form to register to vote for a postal vote, and the deadline is 5pm on Thursday 21 November 2019.
Voting by proxy
Anyone can appoint someone else to vote on their behalf. This is called voting by proxy. 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. Your proxy is not allowed to make a decision about who to vote for – they just fulfil your wishes.
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 vote on your behalf.
The deadline to apply for a proxy vote is by 5pm on Wednesday 4 December 2019.
There is a different form to apply to vote by proxy in Northern Ireland, and you must apply by 5pm on Thursday 21 November 2019.
This post was updated and republished in November 2019.
The right to vote is not taken away by dementia.
The General Election on 12 December is a chance to have your say about important issues such as social care, and there is plenty of support available to make sure that you can. Just make sure you register before it’s too late!