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Letters

Measures are needed to allow elderly inpatients to vote in general elections

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7130.552 (Published 14 February 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:552

Rapid Response:

Postal votes might be a solution

We conducted a survey of all patients (n=90) who attended six
geriatric day hospitals in the west of Scotland on Friday 7th of May, the
day after the Scottish Parliamentary and Council Elections. They had a
median Abbreviated Mental Test Score of 9, (out of a maximum of 10), and a
median
age of 77.

Only 30% of patients voted, but 68% of those who did not vote
expressed a desire to vote. They were highly motivated to do so, with 92%
aware of the election and 81% holding a polling card.

Answers to the question ‘Were there any factors, which stopped you
voting?’ showed that 49% found that their lack of mobility or a lack of
transport influenced their ability to vote.

An American study has already shown that ‘self-assessment of health
is significantly related to voting behaviour’ (1), and a British study
showed that only 16.5% of geriatric inpatients voted at the last General
election (2). Our
study shows that the proportion of frail elderly people living in the
community who vote is also low, and offers one explanation for the low
turnout (55%) seen in this election.

A modern democracy which purports to represent the entire population
needs to make more effort to ensure that the political views of the
elderly are heard. Postal votes seem an obvious and underused opportunity
to improve this
situation.

Yours sincerely

Anne-Louise Cunnington
Lynsey Simpson
Pamela Fraser
Andy Watt
Mark Barber
Caroline Whitton
Damien Reid
Ian Reeves
Scott Ramsay
Pamela Crawford
Brian McInnes
Pat Beausang
Tricia Moylan
Jean Young

West of Scotland Specialist Registrars in Geriatric and General
Medicine
C/O 27 Northland Drive
Scotstoun
Glasgow G14 9BE

Competing Interest - None.

References

1 Bazargan M, Kang TS, Bazargan S. A multivariate comparison of
elderly African Americans and Caucasians voting behavior: how do social,
health, psychological, and political variables effect their voting? Int J
Aging Hum Dev
1991; 32(3): 181-98

2 Aylett V, Cook G, Corrado OJ. Measures are needed to allow elderly
inpatients to vote in general elections. BMJ 1998 Feb 14;316:552 (14th
February)

Competing interests: No competing interests

29 June 1999
Anne-Louise Cunnington