Prisoners will be allowed to vote in next years elections - but those declared to be of unsound mind will be excluded. File photo: Steve Lawrence

Durban - Prisoners will be allowed to vote in next year’s elections - but those declared to be of “unsound mind” will be excluded.

So said the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in responding to public submissions on the Electoral Amendment Bill now before Parliament’s home affairs oversight committee.

This has led to some organisations and MPs calling for the provision in the Electoral Amendment Act to be removed as it could be seen as a form of discrimination against people suffering from mental illness.

In its submission, the Ubuntu Centre South Africa organisation raised concerns about certain sections of the bill that “discriminate” against persons with psychosocial disabilities and those who are detained under the Mental Health Act.

“This is in conflict with the constitution and the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities,” said the organisation in its submission.

IEC chief executive Mosotho Moepya responded that the commission had found, in countries like the US, 44 states out of the 50 states did not permit persons with mental disabilities to register as voters.

“We looked at Europe and out of 27 of those European countries only nine allowed such persons to register and to vote,” said Moepya.

He said the exclusion extended to situations in which people were detained under the Mental Health Care Act.

The ANC’s Andre Gaum said the IEC should “just drop that provision from the relevant legislation”.

“If someone makes the effort to pitch up at a voting station why shouldn’t we just allow them?” he asked.

Corne Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus quipped that people with bipolar disorder would probably “take up a third of the voters roll”.

“But I think the current provision makes sense. The court won’t easily pronounce somebody unsound in mind. There’s a huge process the court goes through,” he said.

The Mercury