Q. I am 55 and for the past two years I have been detained in a local hospital under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983, due to suffering from chronic depression. I want to vote in the upcoming General Election but I am not sure whether I will be entitled to because of my circumstances. Even if I am entitled to vote I don’t know how I would be able to do so as I'm not permitted to leave hospital to attend the Polling Station. I have always taken an active interest in our country’s domestic affairs so this is really upsetting me. As a detained inpatient is there anything I can do?
A. First of all, you should stop worrying as you are entitled to vote. Detention subject to the civil sections (sections 2,3,4,5) of the Mental Health Act 1983 does not affect eligibility to vote. In fact nearly everyone with a mental health problem who is of voting age is entitled to vote in the UK General Election, as long as they are on the electoral register. The exception to having the right to vote during a period of detention under the Mental Health Act would be if someone was being detained in a psychiatric hospital after being found guilty of a criminal offence.
The Electoral Commission's guidance advises that people who have been admitted to hospital because of their mental health, and who have been there long enough to be regarded as a resident, can register to vote using the hospital or care establishment as their address. Those people who are short term residents in hospital for mental health treatment can still register to vote using their permanent home as their address.
Even when you are limited with your freedom whilst being detained you can still vote by using a proxy vote. A proxy vote is where someone else can go to the polling station on your behalf. Persons wanting to vote by proxy at the 2019 UK general election must submit a proxy vote application form to their local authority by 5pm on Wednesday 4 December.