A lawyer with one of the region’s largest metal health teams is urging relatives and friends of patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 to make them aware of their right to vote in the upcoming General Election and help them cast their vote if they are not permitted to leave hospital to attend a polling station.
Elzbeth Kenny, a solicitor with GHP Legal who represent mental health patients across North Wales, Shropshire and North-West England, says many patients believe detention removes their voting rights altogether, whilst others are unaware that someone else can cast a proxy vote on their behalf.
Speaking today, Ms Kenny said: “People need to know that detention subject to the civil sections (sections 2,3,4,5) of the Mental Health Act 1983 does not affect their eligibility to vote. As long as they are on the electoral register nearly everyone with a mental health problem who is of voting age is entitled to vote in the UK General Election. The exception would be someone 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 those who have limited freedom whilst being detained can 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 however submit a proxy vote application form to their local authority by 5pm on Wednesday 4 December.