In the UK everyone who is eligible to Vote must be registered to do so and while the voter registration system shouldn’t prevent a person from exercising that right, there was concern that previous guidance lacked sufficient clarity on what assistance could be provided to make sure disabled people, or people with temporary incapacity, could register to vote.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission raised concern that whilst someone may have a physical condition that prevents them from completing the voter registration form, or may not have capacity to complete the form, they could in both examples be eligible to vote and could be prevented from doing so because of the lack of clarity on the assistance that could be provided.
In a move welcomed by the EHRC, new guidance issued to Electoral Registration officers in Scotland confirms that a Power of Attorney can be used to achieve voter registration for someone who lacks capacity to complete the registration form themselves.
The guidance is now explicit that a person who has an appropriate Power of Attorney may not only assist the individual to complete the application but they are also able to complete the Declaration of Truth on behalf of a person who does not have the ability to do so themselves.
It is important to state that the guidance relates to an Attorney assisting a disabled person, or a person with temporary incapacity, registering to vote – the Attorney cannot use the power to vote on behalf of the granter.
Lynn Welsh, head of Legal at EHRC welcomed the guidance as a positive move that “removes any unnecessary barriers that may prevent disabled people, or people with temporary incapacity, from exercising their right to vote”.