FAQ about voting and dementia
Alzheimer Scotland exists to promote the rights of people with dementia and so support them to participate as active citizens. The right to vote is an important part of being a citizen. This short briefing explains the basics about voting and dementia, and where to get further advice for specific circumstances.
The right to vote
- The right to vote is a legally protected human right. People with dementia retain the right to vote, wherever they live, including if they are temporarily staying somewhere that isn’t their usual residence.
- People retain their right to vote so long as they are able to clearly express their voting choice.
Registering to vote
- The rules about registering to vote have changed recently, and now everyone must register individually. You can do this online at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote or you can ask your local registration office to send you a paper form called an Individual Registration Form.
- Somebody else can help you to register if you need that, by doing the typing if you are registering online or by filling in the form. You must tell them what information to use, though.
- Each year, the local registration office sends every household a Household Enquiry Form – including care homes. One person in the household should make sure that every resident is listed. Any new people will be sent an Individual Registration Form
- You can register to vote at any time. For the UK General Election on 07 May 2015, voters must have registered by 20 April 2015.
Ways of voting
- In person, by going to the polling station. People are entitled to help with voting at a polling station.
- By post – a signature is usually required on a postal vote, for security reasons, but if a voter is unable sign their name or if their signature varies a lot, then they can ask for a waiver. If you want to do this, contact your local registration officer and they will help you, usually by sending you a form to complete to ask for this.
- By proxy – this is when you appoint someone to vote on your behalf. The proxy must carry out the intentions of the person on whose behalf they are voting.
Help with voting
Helping someone else:
- You cannot fill in a ballot paper for someone else unless you are their appointed proxy. Being their paid or unpaid carer, or having power of attorney, does not entitle you to vote on someone’s behalf.
Voting in person:
- The polling station should be accessible and clearly signed, but the council officials staffing it will provide assistance about where to go and what to do.
- A voter can ask for help to mark their ballot paper, either from the polling station presiding officer or from a companion: they should ask the staff at the polling station about this when they arrive.
- Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm on 07 May 2015.
Voting by post:
- Anyone can vote by post and you do not need to give a reason.
- You can indicate that you want to vote by post when you register, and you will be sent the form, or you can get a form by downloading it from the internet or contacting your local electoral registration officer.
- A signature is usually required on a postal vote, for security reasons, but if a voter is unable sign their name or if their signature varies a lot, then they can ask for a waiver. If you want to do this, contact your local registration officer and they will help you, usually by sending you a form to complete to ask for this.
- For the General Election on 07 May 2015, applications to vote by post, including applications for signature waivers, must have been received by 5pm on Tuesday 21 April 2015.
- Postal votes must arrive no later than 10pm on 07 May 2015.
Voting by proxy:
- You need to give a reason to appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf.
- You can get a form by downloading it from the internet or contacting your local electoral registration officer.
- If you only want to appoint a proxy for a single election then you can give any reason why you will not be able to make it to the polling station – such as being on holiday.
- If the reason you want to appoint a proxy is that you have a disability that will prevent you from getting to a polling station, you can appoint someone to be your proxy for more than one election. If this is the case, a doctor, nurse or person in charge of your care home must also sign the form to declare that this is true.
You must submit a standard application for proxy voting by 5pm on Tuesday 28 April.
If something unexpected happens to you, you can apply for an emergency proxy vote up to five days before the election; you should contact your local electoral registration office if you need to do this, and you will need to give a reason.
The general route to advice about the practicalities of voting is through your local registration office, details of which will be available on the local council website. They should be helpful and knowledgeable.
The most important thing to remember is that a person has the right to vote and to make up their own mind about how they do that.