Rishi Sunak has called for a general election on 4 July 2024. Are you, or is your loved one, currently in a psychiatric hospital due to a bipolar episode? If so, do you know your voting rights? 

It’s a common myth that patients in a psychiatric hospital aren’t allowed to vote. This isn't true, yet only 3-8% of this community votes in elections. 

It’s your right to have your voice heard if you’re in hospital. Here’s everything you need to know.

Who can vote?

If you are a voluntary patient or you are held under the Mental Health Act or a Community Treatment Order (CTO), you can vote.

If you are detained because you have been convicted of a criminal offence, you cannot vote.

Deadline to register

If you haven’t already, you need to register before polling day. The deadline to register is Tuesday 18 June 2024. You can register in two ways:

  • Register online - you need just five minutes and your National Insurance number.
  • Register by post by downloading a paper form.

You don’t need to register to vote before every election. Find out if you’re already on the latest Electoral Register via your local council

What address to use

If you’re a short-term patient with a fixed home address outside the hospital, list your home address as your place of residence when you register. 

If you’re a short-term patient without a fixed home address outside the hospital, you need to fill in a declaration of local connection form using the hospital’s location. 

If you're a longer-term patient without a fixed home address, you can register using the hospital’s address. The guidelines say you need to have been in hospital long enough to be considered a resident. However, there is no fixed length of stay, so this is a grey area. 

How to vote

Once you’re accepted on the voting register, you can vote in 3 ways:

·       In person

If you’re a voluntary patient, you can go to the polling station allocated to the area where you registered.

If you’re under section, you can apply for leave (known as section 17 leave). If you are well enough for leave, you may need a nurse or someone else to go with you (known as escorted leave).

As a voter with a disability, you have the right to nominate a ‘companion’ to support you. This is usually a close relative, or you can also ask the Presiding Officer in the polling station to help you. Whoever helps you, they are required by law to sign a simple declaration.

If you’re voting in person, remember to take your ID. If you don’t have any ID, apply for free voter ID here

·       By post

Once you are registered to vote, you can apply to vote by post either online or by post. Find more details here. 

·       By proxy

This is where you can ask someone to vote for you in person on the day of the election or by post. Find more details here.

Get support 

If you have any questions about any of these forms, contact your local electoral services team at your local council. 

If you need any information, support or advice about your bipolar, reach out to our friendly team.

Last updated: 28 May 2024