Dementia doesn’t change your right to vote on 6 May

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.

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. 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. 

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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.

Find out more
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28 comments

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The situation here can only skew election results if a POA makes the vote. The person with Alzheimer's (my mother) should by law, be taken off the roll due to incapacity.
Allowing a POA to make their vote is also wrong, because the person they were before Alzheimer's may have changed their mind with new information that came post Alzheimer's. Nobody knows what they would want to vote, including the afflicted soul...

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If the person with dementia has such advanced symptoms they have lost all communication, cannot make choices and cannot comprehend instructions let alone sign anything how do you remove them from the electoral roll?

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Hello,

Thanks for your comment.

It is the person's choice whether they want to be removed from the electoral roll. 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.

We have some more information about the Mental Capacity Act here:
https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/legal-financial/dementia-ment…

Hope this is helpful,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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How is it possible for a patient who doesn't know where they are who they are or anything going on around them vote. How can somebody go from room to room and talk to them about voting and tell them who they are voting for. Just seems illegal to me to tell them they are voting for a certain candidate when they clearly don't even know who is running for president.

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My husband at 73 has always believed a certain way in regards to politics. Now he is showing me posts that he thinks are the beliefs of who he is voting for and they are the total opposite of who he is voting for. With his dementia testing by a neuropsychologist, he has problems with thought processing, problem solving just to name a couple. I had to take over everything with the finances. He started having utilities shut off for non payment, credit bills not being paid for months and even his home went into foreclosure for non payment. He had been lefty of money to pay his bills. I love him, but I don’t think he should be able to vote.

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It is simple, next of kin/carer should know the persons views, if they have supported a political party for years and years them you help them put the cross in that box, in my opinion the only way one can respect a person with dementia is to remember who they were and make choices for them with the information gathered over years.. As a former Councilor I delivered my newsletters to all local care homes, I am of the opinion the elderly/dementia patients have a right to the information and have a right to their views , which in my experience do not change

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Thank you very much for this information. The night before the election, we wonder how/if Mum can vote. Your info has made it clear she can and how we can help her tomorrow.

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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

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What if you know your parent always voted a certain way but that Brexit has changed this but they no longer are of mental capacity to decide?

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You can not vote for them if they do not have capacity to tell you their choice regardless of how you presume they would vote or have historically voted.

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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?

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

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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,
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Alzheimer's Society blog team

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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.

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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 !

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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.

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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,
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Alzheimer's Society knowledge team

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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.

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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

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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?

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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,
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Alzheimer's Society blog team

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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.

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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.

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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.

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