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.