Concerns over voting rights for mentally impaired
WITH Australia’s electorate failing to deliver a decisive verdict, one might wonder how much influence lay in the hands of a large but silent minority.
Some 257,000 Australians have dementia, and the number is predicted to reach a million by 2050.
It is unclear how many of these chose not to vote, but there is no doubting the growing significance of this demographic.
UK academics, at least, are taking up their cause.
In an editorial in the BMJ last month, experts called for greater respect for the voting rights of those with mental impairment – not only the 700,000 British people with dementia but also the 1.2 million with a learning disability.
Dr Marcus Redley and colleagues also raised questions about Australia’s approach to intellectually impaired voters, who can be removed from the electoral roll on a doctor’s advice.
In practice, however, they said it was unclear who was being excluded and what rights of redress they had.
With the UK recently emerging from its own close-fought election, and little clear advice on the issue from the UK Government, the authors questioned how many people would have missed their chance to vote.
And with increasing numbers of ways to cast it, how many impaired people would have had their vote fraudulently miscast by someone else?
“Our attitudes towards capacity to vote are important because they reflect our views on citizenship,” said Dr Redley, of the University of Cambridge, and colleagues.
“More needs to be known about how to facilitate voting among people with impaired intellectual abilities. Regardless of any concerns over capacity, he or she has a right to vote.”