Patient denied vote seeks law review
A MAN denied the opportunity to vote at the last state election while detained as an involuntary patient in a psychiatric ward plans to take legal action.
David Paulin last week met representatives of the Northern Hospital at a mediation at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, but the parties were unable to settle his complaint.
So persistent were Mr Paulin's requests to be able to cast a vote in the days leading up to the November 2010 election, hospital staff even noted the matter on his patient file.
Mr Paulin, 61, is articulate and politically engaged. He also has a history of mental illness, the incidence of which he likens to ''occasional doses of flu''. With a professional background that includes being a disability advocate, he is deeply disturbed that his health status was apparently used to deny his right as a citizen.
It was the only time he did not vote in a state or federal election, he says. ''Of course, there are people in hospital who are too ill to vote due to their mental illness and might find it too much of a burden, but I wasn't in that situation,'' he says.
Mr Paulin says that on Thursday, November 25, 2010, two days before the state election, he heard on the hospital PA system that Victorian Electoral Commission staff were on site and taking pre-poll votes. ''I heard the announcement, and asked the nurses if I could vote - I was repeatedly ignored.''
Not prepared to let it go, he repeatedly asked again on Saturday November 27 - polling day. This time it would have required hospital staff to escort him to an electoral booth outside the hospital, but he says he was again ignored.
Lawyer Aaron Eidelson, who is preparing the discrimination claim to be heard at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, said: ''Voting is a fundament right, and if a psychiatric hospital can rob you of that right it is the ultimate administrative offence.''
Beth Gaze, a Melbourne University discrimination law expert, said there was nothing in the electoral laws that would disqualify anyone in Mr Paulin's position from voting. She said the denial of the vote could also flout Victoria's Charter of Human Rights.