Australian Down Syndrome woman denied gay marriage vote

Shea McDonaugh with her mother, Fran.
Shea McDonaugh with her mother, Fran. Photo credit:

An Australian woman with Down Syndrome has been denied the right to have her say on gay marriage, being told she may not "understand the nature and significance of enrolment and voting".

Shea McDonaugh, 31, applied to be put back on the electoral roll last month after voluntarily removing herself six years ago, due to her disability. After years of advocating for disability rights and completing university study, she felt she had become capable of making the decision.

But Ms McDonaugh says when the Australian Electoral Commission responded, she was taken aback.

"It hurt my feelings. I felt shitty," she told

The letter she received stated: "Unfortunately, I am unable to approve your enrolment because: The AEC has been unable to confirm that you understand the nature and significance of enrolment and voting."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics began the postal survey earlier this month to gauge public interest in allowing same-sex marriage.

A majority result of yes to the same-sex marriage vote could encourage MPs to move towards a law change.

Ms McDounagh responded to the letter, saying she "most certainly" has the capability to vote.

"I am now 31 years old, I have Down Syndrome and am an advocate for adults with Down Syndrome speaking to the community about disabilities, inclusiveness and discrimination."

Nearly 29,000 Australians with disabilities have been taken off of the electoral roll.