|Who gets to Vote?|
Image: Every Vote Counts
The upcoming election is an opportunity for the population to have their say in the future running of the country. We live in a democracy and the right to vote feels fundamental. But two thirds of all people in the UK with learning disabilities do not vote. Many may not even know that they are entitled to a vote. UK-based statistics are not available but research suggests that for individuals who have cognitive impairments of other causes (e.g dementia, brain injury), voting rates may be similarly low.
Though there are many jokes about the intellectual functioning of the average voter abound in the run-up to an election, the reality is that voting eligibility is not determined by intellectual ability. It appears though that this is not common knowledge. Many health and social care professionals (see here and here) are not fully aware that their clients are actually allowed to vote. The presence of a cognitive impairment may make the process of voting challenging, but is this really sufficient reason to not support people from doing so? Assumptions about whether someone can and should vote may be informed by the ideas around their mental capacity.