Psychiatrists and Electoral Commission officials assessed dementia patients on their capability to vote in recent weeks, Active Ageing Minister Michael Farrugia insisted after families raised concerns.
Farrugia was reacting to reports by relatives that residents with dementia at St Vincent de Paul Residence were taken to vote early on Saturday without their families being informed.
“The vote belongs to the person and neither their relatives nor staff members can stop them from voting once they are certified as being fit,” he told Times of Malta.
He added that, over the past weeks, psychiatrists as well as Electoral Commission officials have assessed people in homes.
Once they made their final decision it was to be respected. Having a diagnosis of dementia does not automatically mean a person is not fit to vote, he said.
On Monday, Times of Malta reported Pawlu Mizzi describe how his 72-year-old mother who has dementia and is a resident at St Vincent de Paul was taken to vote on Saturday, one day before her quarantine period was up.
The vote belongs to the person and neither their relatives nor staff members can stop them from voting once they are certified as being fit- Michael Farrugia
The family was never officially informed that she was going to be asked to vote and it was only a staff member who mentioned the possibility, in passing, to her relatives a few days before.
“Unfortunately, my mother does not recognise us anymore and she cannot even tell the difference between Kinnie and tea, let alone decide which of the candidates she wanted to vote for,” her son contended.
Staff at the home told her family that she had not been certified as fit to vote by a psychiatrist or psychologist.
On Sunday, journalist Peppi Azzopardi also shared a similar complaint, saying that, despite having dementia, his mother was taken out of her ward in St Vincent de Paul to vote and the family was not informed.
The former Xarabank host said that the family were always told “about the tiniest of things” but she was taken out of her ward to vote without the family’s consent or knowledge.
Not qualified to vote if determined to be of unsound mind
According to the Maltese constitution, no person is qualified to be registered as a voter if he or she is determined by a court or otherwise to be of unsound mind.
The General Elections Act outlines a procedure that needs to be followed by family members or carers to cancel a voter from the electoral register. The decision to strike a person off the register must be unanimously agreed by the Electoral Board.
However, little can be done to revoke a voting document on grounds of lack of mental capacity once it has been issued.