Care and the Vote
The right to vote is seen as a pillar of modern democracies and a component of a ‘good life’ of social participation. In the UK that right is extended to all adults unless they have been convicted of an offence in perverting democracy or are a prisoner. However it is possible that other barriers exist to prevent people from voting. This pilot research has investigated how democratic rights have been exercised by those in residential and nursing care – homes in Leicester and Leicestershire serve as a population. Citizens in such institutions often suffer from conditions which may affect their mental capacity, as well as making them particularly vulnerable to political decisions and policy changes. Following the 2015 general election each of the homes (n=272) was invited to take part in a telephone survey: 122 (45%) responded. Initial results suggest a significant difference in turnout exists between the population of care and nursing homes in comparison to the population average. Despite mental capacity having no bearing on voting rights, results from the survey indicate that many homes have considered residents’ capacity before allowing them to vote. Other possible barriers are discussed. The findings present significant avenues for future research. Firstly, there is a need for larger studies toward nationally representative figures. Secondly, it raises policy questions about how those in care in the UK are, or can be, enabled to vote. Finally, it has revealed that methods used for capacity testing in care and nursing homes are often improvised with little or no legal or medical foundation.
Citation:Thompson, E.; Kaur, R.; Scullion, J. and Baggott, R. (2016) Care and the Vote. Political Studies Association Annual International Conference, 2015 UK General Election 2, 21-23 March 2016, Brighton.