Dementia doesn’t change your right to vote on 12 December

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.

Polling station

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!

Register to vote
Think this page could be useful to someone? Share it:

19 comments

Add your own

As a person with dementia, I know that my capacity to make rational decisions is reducing. I will have stop driving at some point, or risk harming myself or others. Similarly, there will be a time when we can't form an opinion about government, and just want to be left in peace. Everyone should have the chance to vote, but should not have it forced upon them.

Does the above mean that someone who has Lasting Power of Attorney cannot be made a Proxy voter?

Hi Sue, providing the person with dementia has capacity to appoint a proxy there is nothing to prevent them appointing someone who also happens to have Lasting Power of Attorney. The only criteria for the proxy is that the nominated person is registered to vote and is also allowed to vote in the same type of election.

Hope this clears it up, and if you need any other support or guidance please feel free to contact our National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 or email the team on [email protected]

I look after elderly people living with Dementia and have documents stating they have no mental capacity and they receive voting paper work. Where do we stand with this when the 'voting by proxy' says the person living with dementia can be assisted to vote by proxy only if they have Mental Capacity to appoint a proxy.

Hello I am the appointee for my mother. No power of attorney as did not have mental capacity to do so no estate etc Any mail for her is not being passed on to me at the home she is in. One of which was her voting form which I have been given some months later. They had filled the form in for her for postal vote to be set up.(but not sent in I think As I now have). As her appointee it should be myself who dealt with this and has her proxy? As she does not have the mental capacity to do so. As surely this could be giving a vote to candidate's that she would not of been her choice. And they are voting for who they want. Hence me as appointee should be the one to act on this for her. If at all! Advice would be very helpful. Thankyou.

Hi Mrs Norman, thanks for your comment.

When it comes to voting only the person themselves can choose who they wish to vote for. Some people choose to nominate someone to act as their proxy – but this is to enable someone to fulfil their wishes and complete the voting form on their behalf and vote how they wish, the proxy MUST follow the persons wishes and vote how the person wants. A proxy under voting is someone that is appointed to only assist with voting and not anything else and the person should have asked for them to be their proxy. As an appointee for your mother you have the power to manage your mother’s benefits, and I’m afraid this is as far as the power stretches and so does not give you the right to vote on her behalf. If you wish to be your mother’s proxy your mother would need to complete the proxy application form.

A care home cannot vote on a residents behalf, instead many set up postal voting for their residents and will support the resident in voting. Legally no one can place a vote on another’s behalf, instead the system, including proxy voting is about supporting and assisting someone to be able to make their own vote, so I hope this reassures you to know that legally they shouldn’t be voting themselves using your mother’s vote. I would suggest that you speak with the care home about how they handle voting and what support they offer. From what you have said I gather your mother is set up for a postal vote, so maybe ask about being there to support her with completing it next time there is an election or a referendum, or checking with them about what they do to help her to vote.

Hope this is helpful, and do let us know if you have any more questions.

Hi,
I work in aged care and a family is telling me that it is the homes responsibility in taking their mother off the electoral role?
We have arranged postal votes for those that wish to vote.

Great advice on here, thank you. One aspect I am a little confused about is "The only criteria for the proxy is that the nominated person is registered to vote and is also allowed to vote in the same type of election." I have LPA for my mother who is in a home in a different part of the country. Can I cast her vote as her Proxy in local elections for the location she is in?

Thanks Peter – the information on this can be a bit unclear.

Regarding the part you've quoted, what this really means is that the proxy is someone who is able to vote themselves, i.e. on the electoral register and so 18 or over (16+ in Scotland). The LPA is not really an issue here as such, and it must be noted that voting by proxy is voting as your mother wishes you to in that specific election

Ideally, as proxy voter you will go to the polling station to make the proxy vote as your mother wishes. However, if this is not possible – as it sounds like it might not be – you can apply to have a postal proxy vote and so would be sent the voting forms in the post.

There is some useful information on the your vote matters website direct link to their proxy information below: https://www.yourvotematters.co.uk/how-do-i-vote/voting-by-proxy

Hope this is helpful,
--
Alzheimer's Society blog team

If the person you care for no longer speaks or has.capacity to appoint a proxy; doesn’t that mean they have lost their vote (even if they had created a LPA before the deterioration)
Seems unfair if they are excluded as social care changes often hits hits this group the hardest

I am Attorney for my Mum under an LPA and she now has dementia. She’s pretty feeble physically, is bed/chair-bound and her signature is virtually non existent. She knows there’s an election coming up and knows what party she wants to vote for (having always voted same way). Happy for me to mark X for her. I had to complete the declaration on the household form a few months ago & sign it because she wouldn’t have understood it and I requested a postal form when the election was announced. Since she can’t sign it I asked for a proxy vote for her but her council have said that because it appears she wouldn’t understand the proxy form she they won’t send one to her. They accepted my completing the household form so why not with the proxy form? Seems that because she can’t complete that, through infirmity, she can’t vote.

Hi Christopher, thanks for your comment.

You are right to be confused. Although it is clear that anyone has the right to vote regardless of their mental capacity, some of the processes they have to go through can create anomalies.

If your mum could get to a polling station she would be able to vote (with some support if needed) so it’s understandable that you feel she shouldn’t be worse off because she can’t get there.

The Electoral Commission take the view that someone needs mental capacity to appoint a proxy, but they shouldn’t be making assumptions about capacity and should assume it unless there is a reason not to. If you feel that your mum knows what she is doing then you can argue that with your electoral registration office.

Alternatively you can ask if they can issue a postal vote for your mum, and if the problem is she can’t sign it you can ask them for a “signature waiver”. This can be applied for if someone is unable to sign or to provide a signature in a consistent way.

Hope this helps,
--
Alzheimer's Society knowledge team

There is a Waiver Form you can complete from your electoral office. You can the sign on your mums behalf. I'm doing it for my husband who can no longer do his signature. This allows me to sign his postal vote for him.

Mum has lost mental capacity now with her Alzheimer’s, we have LPA, but would not now be capable of asking for proxy vote .She is registered for postal vote but gather from previous answers she will now lose her vote due to mental deterioration- again given it is this group that need action on Social Care provision seems a shame we cannot act on her behalf so she has a voice !

Thank you so much for putting posting this information . My husband was diagnosed in April of this year and is quite able to decide and really wants to vote. I did not know if he could but you have given me the answers.

Hi, can someone with lasting power if attorney apply for a postal vote on behalf of the voter? Thanks.

Hi Jason, thanks for your comment, and you're right to point out that the guidance isn't completely clear on this.

There is this guidance from the Electoral Commission (https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdf_file/IER…) which, while stressing that someone who is an LPA attorney can’t actually vote on behalf of the person, does indicate that an attorney with an appropriate LPA can make the application to register for a vote on the person’s behalf (see paragraphs 1.13-1.18 headed “What someone with a power of attorney can and can’t do on behalf of an applicant“).

This appears to relate to the application to register to vote rather than an application for a postal vote though you might think that logically the same thought process would apply i.e. this is about administration rather than actually voting on the person’s behalf, but check with your electoral registration office. The person will need to sign the actual postal vote form and another form that comes with it and there may be a need to apply for a signature waiver if the person has difficulty signing. Discuss that with your electoral registration office too.

Hope this helps,
--
Alzheimer's Society blog team

This information about being able to vote is completely new to me. My partner is now in a care home, and is not registered to vote at our home address.
I had assumed that he would not be able to vote because of having dementia.
It is a huge pity that this email with such important information was not sent out in time to organise alternative registration at his current home. The dates for registration have long passed.
Should the care home have informed/discussed this issue with someone holding POA?

My lovely wife has Alzheimer's, the dreaded disease with NO KNOWN CURE. From the waist down, no problems thank goodness but from the neck upwards she is on another planet
I am her POA and her 80 year old, 24 hour a day carer and I feel very strongly about the election especially covering the contents on the literature put through our letter-box. Not one of the three main parties have covered the subject of supporting Dementia and raising money to find a cure. Over 20 /25 years ago there was not a cure for certain types of cancer, but now as a result of research many people are benefiting, Let's all push the incoming government to put more money into finding a cure, it wont save my wife nor my children but might save my grand-children
There has been so much in-fighting and arguments that I along with many people are totally fed up with it. Whilst I agree with the various promises of tackling climate change, more police, building more homes etc by whoever forms the next Government my main priory is to raise as much money as I can to fight this dreadful disease which is cruelly robbing us of our loved ones. Please back me and lobby your MP like I am and will continue to do so
Thank you

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.