How can people with intellectual disability get voting support?

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People with intellectual disability have the right to vote, the same as every other Australian, and sometimes support is needed to exercise this right.

Key points

  • Every Australian has the right to vote and there is support available if you need it
  • There is a law that can be used to stop some people with intellectual or psychosocial disability from voting, but there is also a way to argue for your right to vote
  • You need to find a source of accurate information that you understand to make sure your vote counts

If you need support to vote, this guide will give you some suggestions on how to find the right support.

It also explains the law that stops some people with intellectual disability from being able to vote and how to apply for your right to vote if you are affected by that law.

Support to vote

There are a few ways you can get help to vote in person.

A family member or friend can go in with you to help you vote, or you can ask an election official at the voting place to help you fill out the card.

The election official will keep your vote secret and can’t tell you who to vote for, but can make sure that you have filled out your vote in the right way.

If you make a mistake while filling out your vote you can ask for a new paper from the staff member who gave you the first paper.

If you’re worried about filling out the vote card in the right way you can also practice voting on the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website.

Your support workers can help you to get to a voting place on Election day, or you can apply to do your vote from home if you can’t get to a polling place.

If you are postal voting you need a family member, friend or neighbour to be a witness for you.

Your witness can either just watch you fill out your vote and sign it, or they can also help you to make sure you have filled out the form correctly.

The AEC does have some easy read guides that you might find useful:

The law

There is a law about who can and can’t be on the Electoral Roll, which is a list of everyone in Australia who can vote.

The law still has a section that says, ‘a person who by reason of unsound mind, is incapable of understanding the nature and significance of enrolment and voting’ can’t be on the Electoral Roll.

Advocates have been working to have this section removed for years, but they haven’t been successful yet and it continues to stop some people with intellectual or psychosocial disability from voting.

More information about this is available in easy read from Down Syndrome Australia.

To be taken off the Roll a doctor has to sign a form saying that person is “of unsound mind”, even though there is no explanation of what that term means exactly.

If you are not on the Roll because of this law, you can apply to vote again by filling out a new enrolment form and getting your doctor to give you a certificate saying you do understand voting.

Who to vote for

No one can tell you who to vote for, you need to make that decision yourself.

The best way to read about what every party is promising is by going to their websites, because this information is from the party themselves and does not include anyone else’s opinions.

If you want to read about an issue you are worried about, so that you know what all the parties are promising to fix it, you could try reading your local newspaper or searching for the issue online.

You do need to remember that what you read can be based on a particular point of view and reading information from a few different places can give you a more balanced view.

A trusted person can also help you to read and understand what each party is promising.

Do you use support to vote? Tell us what works for you in the comments below.

Related content:
Support to help you have your say during an election
Your rights as a person with disability
Getting disability support in a language you can understand