Sep 07, 2023

Can people with dementia vote in the Voice referendum?

Discussing the topic with the person and their doctor can determine if they have the capacity to understand the voting process. [Source: Shutterstock]

All Australians will need to vote on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament referendum on 14 October, but what about those living with dementia? 

Just because a person may be experiencing cognitive decline, it doesn’t instantly rule them out of voting and having their say. 

People in the early stages of dementia, who are still capable of understanding the nature and significance of enrolment and voting, may be able to continue to enrol and vote and this is decided on a case-by-case basis. 

But what about at the voting polls? 

Dementia and aged care advocate Gwenda Darling lives with Behavioural Variant Frontotemporal Dementia, she said there are a number of ways that polling stations can assist people living with dementia when voting.

“Clear signage, a small suitably lit accessible area with timely assistance and consideration of noise levels would make a significant difference at polling stations. As would a clear, concise, explanation of what is required to ensure a formal vote and reassurance if a mistake is made a new form to be issued,” she explained.

Gwenda Darling. [Source: ABC News]

Dementia Australia is calling on people living with dementia, their families, carers and doctors to start the conversation now about voting.

Dementia Australia Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maree McCabe said this is important for all to decide whether they can vote in the referendum together so their status on the electoral roll can be amended, if needed.

“It may be that someone needs support to vote, for example, being reminded to attend their local polling place on the right date or helping them arrange a postal vote or to attend an early voting centre,” she said.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website contains information about the voting process in simple, clear language to assist people living with dementia, their families and carers. Where people may require additional support to enrol and vote, the AEC provides a range of ‘Easy read guides’ for people who have difficulty reading and understanding written information.

This AEC video discusses how to enrol and vote if you live with dementia.

If it is decided that someone no longer has the capacity to vote, a form can be completed and submitted to the AEC to remove them from the electoral roll. The medical certificate on the form must be completed and signed by a registered medical practitioner.

Dementia Australia is hosting a series of information sessions designed to support people living with dementia and carers to know what to do when it comes to voting. Visit their website to register here.

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