Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to Minutes of Evidence (Volume II)

Appendix 3

Supplementary Note by Mind

Extract From a Letter to the Clerk of the Committee

I am writing, as promised, to clarify one or two points on the evidence already given by Mind in relation to voter registration of people with mental health problems.

Our overall aim is to ensure that the many thousands of hospital patients who currently find themselves effectively disenfranchised are included on the electoral register. In my written and oral evidence I proposed that the bar on use of the hospital address for registration purposes should be abolished for both voluntary and detained patients. In its place there should be a system of registration either at a former address (as for overseas voters) or at the hospital. The patient's declaration system (RPF35) should also be abolished.

I am not sure however that I made clear our view on how these options should fit together. Our view is:

1.  That all patients (other than clearly very short stay patients able to register elsewhere) should be automatically registered at the hospital address. There should be a new duty on electoral registration officers under section 10 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 to ensure that effective registration of this group does occur (at present the duty to compile an effective register excludes voluntary patients). If people left the hospital before an election then a rolling register would help them re-register at that stage at their home address.

2.  For confidentiality reasons it may be necessary to include this group of voters under "other voters" rather than under the hospital address on the face of the register.

3.  It should be open to patients to register at an address outside the hospital where they had lived in the previous 20 years (as for overseas voters) if they wished to do so, eg because they identified more with that area as being home. We accept that this may lead to people being registered at more than one place. However, this already happens in the case of students. As the committee will be aware it is not an offence to be registered more than once as long as only one vote is cast.

We would also like to see consultation and discussion between the Home Office, electoral administrators, voluntary organisations such as Mind and users of mental health services and their representatives before the details of any system are finalised.

June 1998

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