The family of an intellectually disabled woman is alarmed her carers are supporting her to vote in this year’s election – despite her having the mental age of a 2-year-old.
But disability advocates are backing her caregivers’ actions, saying the voting rights of people with intellectual disabilities should be protected.
Patricia Hallett’s family was informed via text last week that her carers planned to take her to a polling booth to vote.
The 62-year-old lives in Auckland under the permanent care of IHC subsidiary Idea Services.
Nephew David Hallett, of Ngahinapouri, said it was “ridiculous” the law allowed his aunt to vote and feared others with severe intellectual disabilities could be unduly influenced at the voting booth.
Patricia Hallett was left brain damaged after contracting meningitis as a child.
Her affairs were managed by her brother under power of attorney.
“My aunt can’t make any kind of decision whatsoever and should be a disqualified voter,” David Hallett said.
“My 2 -year-old child has more cognitive ability in terms of reasoning but I know how easy it is to influence him with a little suggestion.
This is a difficult issue. Obviously many people with intellectual disabilities are capable of making an informed vote. But others are not. How do you protect those incapable of making an informed vote from coercion?
Should there be a competency test? Or is the small number of people involved insignificant?
UPDATE: This issue has become more significant. Stuff reports:
A large-scale provider of care for the intellectually disabled has been accused of openly influencing the voting of residents in their care.
A former community support worker at Idea Services said carers actively encouraged residents to vote Labour and schooled them on what boxes to tick on their ballot paper.
The Waikato-based worker, who declined to give her full name for fear of reprisals, said Idea Services management pressured carers to vote Labour and also directed them to influence how residents voted.
Idea Services is a subsidiary of IHC.
“By the time they [clients] get taken to the voting booths, they already know the colour that they have got to vote for,” the former staffer said. “They get told things like you can vote for whoever you like but Labour is the only political party that cares what happens to you.”
That’s disgraceful, if correct.