Advice sought on enrolments

The New Zealand Aged Care Association is seeking legal advice on whether its members have to assist dementia and psychogeriatric residents to enrol to vote.

Chief executive Martin Taylor said there were practical and ethical problems with dementia and psychogeriatric patients voting, and he felt it was a legal oversight they had not been exempted from enrolling.

People under certain mental health legal orders were exempt, but many dementia and psychogeriatric patients were not subject to such orders.

Prompted by a complaint from a member, Mr Taylor contacted the Electoral Commission and was told facilities had a duty to assist. The issue had not cropped up before in Mr Taylor's time as head of the organisation, spanning four election terms.

''I think [the Electoral Commission's] time is better spent elsewhere. It's about the application of scarce resources.''

With numbers of dementia patients increasing, the issue could grow.

One of the things the association wanted to determine was where liability for non-enrolment of residents fell.

Electoral Commission enrolment services national manager Murray Wicks said, when contacted, the commission had not changed its policy on enforcing the law.

''They are a group who are eligible to be enrolled to vote and we are helping and assisting them to do so.

''We assist everyone who is eligible to vote and some people require more assistance than others.''

About 89% of the population was enrolled. The commission aimed to achieve about 94% enrolment before the September 20 election.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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