Alf shares the alarm of the family of an intellectually disabled woman whose carers are supporting her to vote in this year’s election.
The woman in question has the mental age of a two-year-old.
This means she is likely to cast her vote for Labour or the Greens.
In a sane world, she would not be allowed to vote at all.
But there are lots of daft people out there and, sure enough, her voting rights are being championed by disability advocates.
These advocates are supporting the woman’s caregivers’ actions, saying the voting rights of people with intellectual disabilities should be protected.
The 62-year-old woman is named in a Waikato Times report as Patricia Hallett, whose family was informed via text last week that her carers planned to take her to a polling booth to vote.
She 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.
Uh, oh. This is bound to give ideas to people who will argue that if the intellectually woman can vote, then a two-year-old child should be allowed to vote too.
David Hallett goes on:
“There are intellectually disabled people who do have the mental faculties to make decisions but my aunt is at the very far end of the scale . . . there is no question as to her capabilities and she’s not capable. It makes a mockery of the electoral system.”
It does indeed.
Mind you, so does every vote cast for anyone except a National candidate.
But what does the IHC have to say about this sorry state of affairs?
IHC communications national manager Gina Rogers said the organisation would not comment specifically on Patricia Hallett’s case.
However as a general principle IHC worked “very closely” with the Electoral Commission to ensure people under their care had the information and support they needed to exercise their right to vote “if it is their wish”, Rogers said.
So how do we know if Patricia Hallett has expressed a wish to vote – or whether someone has persuaded her she should vote and, furthermore, will help show her where to place her ticks?
Under New Zealand’s electoral system there is no mental capacity test to qualify a voter.
It’s time there was.
All voters should have to pass a basic IQ test to prove their fitness to vote and answer questions that show their level of understanding of political matters is significantly higher than that required for people to express their opinions on talk-back radio.
The Waikato Times quotes Electoral Commission communications and education advisor Richard Thornton, who said the ability to vote in general elections was a “fundamental right” and having an intellectual disability did not make a person ineligible.
“All New Zealand citizens and permanent residents over the age of 18 have the right to vote with a few very limited exceptions,” Thornton said.
“The law does not allow diminished mental capacity to disqualify someone from being entitled to vote except in very limited circumstances.”
It’s this deficient aspect of our electoral law that enables Labour, the Greens and other assorted weirdo parties to muster so many votes at elections.
Alf’s proposal would require voters to demonstrate a basic understanding of logarithms, the workings of Labour’s capital gains tax, and so on.
Come to think of it, under that test not even David Cunliffe would be allowed near a polling booth.