Voting with an ‘Unsound Mind’? A Comparative Study of the Voting Rights of Persons with Mental Disabilities

Trevor Ryan, Andrew henderson, Wendy Elizabeth Bonython

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


While Australia has a system of universal franchise, in the sense of a system of voting that is broadly inclusionary, there are some notable exceptions – minors and some convicted criminals are excluded, for example. While the political participation of these excluded groups sometimes attracts attention in the media, there is another group that has been even more marginalised, both within society and within debates over the franchise. This group is persons with mental disability or, more precisely, with actual or assumed impaired decision-making capacity resulting from chronic or acute mental illness, dementia, intellectual disability or brain injury. This appears to be changing as individual nations (including Australia) assess their compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on a range of issues and as a greater number of citizens experience dementia in an ageing population. This article seeks to contribute to this reform momentum by comparing the laws relating to this issue across jurisdictions, particularly Japan and Australia, to argue for a political franchise without discrimination against persons with mental disabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1038-1071
Number of pages34
JournalUniversity of New South Wales Law Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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