Anonymous registration for survivors of domestic abuse
Give all survivors in refuges and safe houses the right to vote
Women’s Aid has been working with survivor and campaigner Mehala to ensure that all survivors of domestic abuse are able to register to vote anonymously.
In March 2017 Women’s Aid and Mehala secured positive proposals for changing the anonymous voting rules. Sadly these changes weren’t implemented in time to enable many survivors to register safely in the 2017 General Election. At the moment we are working with Cabinet Office and the Electoral Commission to ensure that the changes to the process for anonymous voter registration will make voting as easy as possible for women in refuges.Download the guide to anonymous registration
What’s the problem?
Currently survivors of domestic abuse are legally allowed to register to vote anonymously in local and general elections to if they can prove their safety will be at risk if their address is published on the Electoral Register, which is a public document. In order to be allowed to register to vote anonymously you have to have certain types of evidence or a letter from a ‘Qualifying Officer’.
The only types of evidence that can currently be used are Court Orders, which most survivors will not have, and letters can only be signed by very senior figures in specific agencies, such as the Director General of the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
For most survivors of domestic abuse these rules mean that they are unable to register to vote anonymously and they lose their right to participate in the democratic process.
“As I live in a safe house it is vital for my safety that my name and address do not appear on the electoral register. The current system does provide an ‘anonymous registration’ process designed to protect vulnerable or at risk people who can’t disclose their residential address.
For many in my situation, their registration would not be eligible for sign off. Taking away the civil right, human right that was fought so hard for back in 1918 that introduced the ‘Representation of the People Act’ allowing women the right to vote.
– Mehala Osborne, survivor and campaigner
What are we calling for?
Women’s Aid and Mehala want to see the list of evidence that survivors can use become much wider and, at a minimum, include evidence of a refuge stay, a letter from a GP or other health professional and other types of evidence from the police. We want professionals working in specialist domestic abuse organisations to be ‘Qualifying Officers’ who can sign letters of support.
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