People with Down syndrome 'refused right to vote'

Mental health campaigners expressed dismay yesterday after it was claimed that people with Down syndrome are being refused the right to vote in Northern Ireland.

Patsy McGlone, an SDLP Assembly member, said a constituent with the condition had been refused a place on the electoral roll even though he had been on it as recently as the Assembly elections last November and had voted in the past.

"The Electoral Office is now saying that because he has Down syndrome, he is not entitled to vote. This fellow wants to go out and vote with everyone else and I know fine well that he knows who he wants to vote for," said Mr McGlone.

The Mid-Ulster MLA claimed that his constituent was not alone and that he knew - through fellow Assembly members - of hundreds of people across the province who were suddenly in the same position. Mr McGlone has been in contact with the Equality Commission, seeking to challenge the issue under disability legislation. He said it could also be a matter for the Human Rights Commission.

"The Electoral Office has made a quite arbitrary decision and I think it is very, very unfair," Mr McGlone said. "He is entitled to everything else but the Electoral Office is saying that just because he has Down syndrome he is less of a citizen than anyone else and has less of a right to vote.''

The Electoral Office was not available for comment yesterday.

David Congdon, Mencap's head of policy, said: "People with a learning disability are equal citizens and should be allowed the same civil rights as everyone else, including the right to vote."

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