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This article is an analysis of the Wild case that was heard on 15 June 1976 by Judge Lloyd Jones of the County Court, Warrington.

In order to vote, the person's name must appear on the register of electors as a resident of a particular locality. Any place where the elector legitimately resides (even a hostel, a general hospital or a university) may be used as an address which qualifies a person for entry onto the register. The one exception is found in section 4(3) of the Representation of the People Act 1949, as amended by the Mental Health Act, 1959, which prevents a patient from using a psychiatric hospital as his place of residence for electoral purposes. Section 4(3) states: "A person who is a patient in any establishment maintained wholly or mainly for the reception and treatment of persons suffering from mental illness (or other form of mental disorder), or who is detained in legal custody at any place, shall not, by reason thereof, be treated for the purposes aforesaid as resident there."

Therefore, patients in a psychiatric hospital or mental nursing home can only register as voters if they have homes outside the hospital. An informal (voluntary) patient who has no home is disenfranchised because a psychiatric hospital, according to the law, is not a home. Approximately 50,000 informal patients in hospitals for the mentally ill and handicapped have no right to vote for this reason alone. A person suffering from some form of mental disorder is not disqualified from voting on residential grounds alone. It appears from the Burgess case that the name of an 'idiot' (now termed a severely subnormal person) should not be allowed to appear on the electoral register. However, a 'lunatic' (now termed a person suffering from mental illness or some minor form of mental disorder) may vote during his lucid intervals. The returning officer is entitled to take the vote of a person who is registered and who is sufficiently compos mentis to discriminate between the candidates and answer the statutory question--"Are you the person whose name appears in the Register of Electors?"

Publication Citation

2 Poly L. Rev. 17-21 (1976)