Publication date: 5 Nov, 2019
Are there any restrictions on voting for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems?
No. Nearly everyone with a mental health problem or learning disability who is of voting age is entitled to vote in the UK General Election. We explain some exceptions below.
In order to vote, you need to be on the electoral register. The deadline for registering to vote is 5pm on 26 November 2019. The link to register online is here, and the same section explains how to register by post.
Does being under guardianship or a power of attorney affect the right to vote?
No. Having a guardian or a welfare attorney under the Adults with Incapacity Act does not take away a person's right to vote. However, the adult must be able to vote on their own behalf. A guardian or welfare attorney cannot decide who to vote for on behalf of the adult, although they may be able to help the person with the registration process or to cast a proxy vote.
See below for an explanation of the position of people with severe impairments.
What about people with severe impairments?
Everyone is entitled to register to vote. Para 3.88 of the Electoral Commission's guidance to electoral registration officers makes clear:
"A lack of mental capacity is not a legal incapacity to vote: persons who meet the other registration qualifications are eligible for registration regardless of their mental capacity."
Section 73 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 abolished any 'common law' restrictions that a person was unable to register to vote if they lacked legal capacity.
Electoral Registration Officers are expected to assist people who may have any difficulties with the registration process because of physical or mental disabilities. However, the person must choose for themselves who to vote for. No-one else can decide on their behalf.
The Electoral Commission website has guidance to Electoral Registration Officers on assistance with the registration process.
An important new change is that a person who holds a welfare power of attorney may be able to complete the registration process on behalf of the adult.
The Electoral Commission has also issued guidance to care homes on supporting residents.
Can I still vote if I am staying in hospital?
Yes. Paras 3.33 and 3.34 of the Electoral Commission's guidance advise that people who have been admitted to hospital because of their mental health, and have been there long enough to be regarded as a resident, can register to vote using the hospital or care establishment as their address.
The same section of the document says that people who are in hospital for mental health treatment for a shorter time can register to vote using their permanent home as their address, even though they are a short term resident in hospital.
Can I vote if I have been detained under the Mental Health Act, or have a community compulsory treatment order?
Yes. Detention under the civil provisions of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 does not affect eligibility to vote.
What about a person detained under criminal procedures?
People who are detained in a psychiatric or learning disability hospital after being found guilty of a criminal offence can lose their right to vote during the period of detention. Section 3A of the Representation of the People Act 1983 states that the following people are legally incapable of voting in the UK election if they are currently detained:
This includes people subject to compulsion orders, interim compulsion orders, transfer for treatment directions, or found insane in bar of trial.
How do I get a postal or proxy vote?
Information about postal voting is available here. You must submit a postal vote application form to your local authority by 5pm on Tuesday 26 November.
A proxy vote is where someone else goes to the polling station on your behalf. Information about proxy voting is available here. If you want to vote by proxy at the 2019 UK general election, you must submit a proxy vote application form to your local authority by 5pm on Wednesday 4 December.