We will be sending an email to all care home services to alert them to the guidance available to support residents to vote in the upcoming elections. You can find a copy of the email below.

On Thursday 5 May there will be an election for the Scottish Parliament. This guidance provides more information about what you can do to support residents in care homes to participate in that election, if they choose to do so. 

Why support residents to participate in elections?
The right to vote is a protected human right. Residents in care homes have the right to participate in political and public life. Supporting residents to vote is central to providing a high quality service that empowers individuals to participate in society and exercise choice. 

The national care standards are underpinned by principles of dignity, choice and realising potential, which are core to our right to vote. Many of the care standards relate directly to supporting residents to vote, for example, the standards around “Making Choices” or “Exercising your rights”. 

You can, and should, support residents to register to vote, regardless of whether you think they have capacity to do so. 

You can find more information about the standards on The Hub

Who can vote?
Residents can vote in the Scottish Parliament election, if they are registered to vote in Scotland, are 16 or over on 5 May 2016, and are:

  • a British citizen, or
  • a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, or
  • a citizen of the EU

Everyone must be registered to vote in the election by Monday 18 April. 

If residents wish to vote, all providers and managers of services should support and enable them to do so. While residents with any level or no level of mental capacity may be registered to vote, the decision about whether and how to vote at an election must be made by the resident themselves and not by any other person acting on their behalf. Even If someone is a carer, or has been appointed with power of attorney who makes decisions on behalf of someone else, they are not entitled to make decisions on voting, sign a postal voting paper or mark a ballot paper for someone else without the agreement of the Presiding Officer at a Polling Station.

It is important that you do not make an assumption about any individual’s capacity to vote or attempt to apply a “one size fits all” approach to all residents. Each individual must be assessed on a case by case basis at the time of their decision making in relation to voting. 
The fact that an individual has dementia, for example, does not necessarily mean that they will lack capacity to vote on 5 May 2016.

Are residents registered to vote?
Long-term residents would have been carried forward from the previous registers providing the electoral registration officer (ERO) could confirm their identity. Those whose identity could not be matched were invited to register individually. Residents who have moved in during the last 18 months will have had to register to vote individually. 

Each autumn, the ERO sends an enquiry form to each address that the care home staff should complete to tell the ERO who is currently resident. Any new residents who have not already registered to vote are then sent a letter and form inviting them to register to vote. They can register online, by phone, by completing the form or with the assistance of the ERO canvass staff that will follow-up these forms if no response is otherwise made. 

As a matter of course any new resident to a care home should apply to register to vote as soon as they move in so that they can vote in any future elections.

You may be supporting some residents who are using your service for a respite stay. You should check if they would like support to register to vote or find out if they have made alternative arrangements to vote at their home address.

The quickest and simplest way to register to vote is to go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote If a paper form is more convenient, these can be downloaded from the same website – just select the register by post option.  Poll cards were issued in mid-March. Any resident who did not receive a poll card is likely not to be registered and should immediately apply to register.  Online applications must be submitted before midnight on 18 April. Completed application forms must be sent to your local electoral registration office to arrive by Monday 18 April

If you aren’t sure whether residents are registered or not, contact your local electoral registration office. You can find their address at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

What are the different ways to vote?

There are three ways of voting:

In person on 5 May: 
Most people vote in person at their polling station which is open from 7am to 10pm on polling day. It is straightforward and a members of polling staff will be there to help if any of your residents are not sure what to do. Residents will receive a poll card telling them where their polling station is. It is often in a nearby school or community centre. If they do not receive their poll card you can contact the local council to find out where their polling station is.

Polling stations must be accessible – so there will be ramps for example to allow wheelchair access and there are arrangements in place to help people to vote independently. These include large print versions of ballot papers at all polling stations and “tactile voting devices” so that those with visual impairment can fill in a ballot paper. If residents need help to vote then they can take a companion with them to assist, or ask the presiding officer at the polling station for help. Polling staff are trained to support electors to assist them to vote in secret.

If you would like to know more about the accessibility of the polling stations which residents will be using then you should contact your local council elections team for advice.

By post: 
If residents are not able to, or do not wish to vote at the polling station, then they can apply to vote by post. They will need to fill in a postal vote application form and send it to arrive at their electoral registration office by 5pm on Tuesday 19 April. You can download an application form from www.aboutmyvote.co.uk You cannot however apply to vote by post online. The form must be completed and sent to the local electoral registration office.

Residents who are using your service for respite care can continue to vote in their home constituency by arranging to redirect their postal vote to them at the care home. They should contact the electoral registration office where they are registered to arrange for this as soon as possible.

Residents will need to sign the postal vote application form and provide their date of birth. They will need to provide these “identifiers” again when they come to vote so that the signature and date of birth can be compared and verified for security reasons. If the resident is unable to sign the form, or their signature can vary from day to day, then they should contact the local electoral registration office and ask for the requirement for a signature to be waived. Residents should receive their ballot papers at least a week before polling day. If they don’t arrive contact your local council’s election office.

By proxy: 
If residents can’t go to the polling station and don’t wish to vote by post, they may be able to vote by appointing a proxy. This means that they appoint somebody they trust to vote on their behalf. The Electoral Commission considers that a person must have mental capacity to appoint or to continue to have a proxy, so that can be taken to be a decision on voting. Residents will need to fill in an application form and send it to arrive at the local electoral registration office by 5pm on Tuesday 26 April. You can download an application form from www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

When residents apply for a proxy vote they will have to state why they cannot vote in person. Anyone can be their proxy as long as they are registered as an elector, eligible to vote in the election or referendum concerned and are willing to vote on their behalf. A person can only act as a proxy for up to two people who are not their close relatives. Residents will have to tell their proxy how they wish to vote. A proxy can either vote in person or can apply to vote by post.

If a resident becomes unexpectedly ill or becomes incapacitated 6 days or less before an election then they can apply for an emergency proxy up until 5pm on the day of the election. In this instance you should contact the local electoral registration office as soon as possible to make arrangements for this.

How will residents know how to complete their ballot papers?
All polling stations will have voting instructions displayed in each polling booth and polling station staff will also be able to assist voters. Residents choosing to vote by post will receive instructions as part of their postal ballot pack.

Where can I get more information?
You can visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk for more information about elections and voting.