Anonymous registration for survivors of domestic abuse

Give all survivors 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.

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. 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’. It has been extremely difficult for survivors to produce these forms of evidence, or access the very senior officials in specific agencies who were recognised as ‘Qualifying Officers’.

These rules have meant that many survivors, including Mehala, have been unable to register to vote anonymously. As a result, they have been denied their right to participate in the democratic process. Mehala and Women’s Aid have campaigned for practical changes to make the anonymous registration process work for survivors – including ensuring that a refuge manager can sign a letter of support.

Campaign success!

On 7 March 2018 Women’s Aid and Mehala welcomed important changes to the anonymous registration rules. The changes will make it easier for survivors to register to vote anonymously by:

  • broadening the range of people able to formally certify that a survivor’s safety is at risk (to include refuge managers, health professionals and police inspectors)
  • expanding the list of documentary evidence that survivors can provide.

We have been pleased to have the support of Ministers, the Cabinet Office and Electoral Commission to make these reforms, and ensure survivors; voices are heard in our democracy. We’ve worked with the Electoral Commission to produce new guidance for anonymous registration, which will help those supporting survivors – including refuge mangers – to register to vote.

“I was denied a vote whilst living in a refuge, and I never realised how much having a vote meant till it was taken away. I had already been through enough, and to be disempowered even more was so difficult. I am so proud to have started the campaign that has led to these proposed change. Survivors in the future will not be denied their voice and democratic right to vote.”

Mehala Osborne, survivor and campaigner

“For too long survivors of domestic abuse have been silenced because it was too dangerous for them to sign up to an electoral register, which would reveal their location, and too difficult for them to register anonymously. For them anonymity is a matter of life or death; with the very real threat of being hunted down by the perpetrator.

Following our Right to Vote campaign in partnership with survivor Mehala Osborne, we have worked with the government to bring about decisive action on this issue. We’re delighted that on the 100th anniversary of the first British women securing the right to vote, the government will be making it easier for survivors to vote in safety.”

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid

What are we calling for now?

Although we’ve secured crucial changes, anonymous registration will still only last for 12 months. Domestic abuse does not end when a relationship ends, and research consistently shows that women can be at risk long after they have escaped an abusive partner. We are now campaigning to ensure that a survivor never has to choose between safety and their right to vote by ensuring that “anonymous voter” registration can be accessed for life – and will be pushing for further reforms through the Government’s forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill.

How to get involved

Sign our petition and help us ensure survivors of domestic abuse do not lose their right to vote.

38degrees petition

GET INVOLVED

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Become a Campaign Champion

Support our national campaigns on a local level, give survivors of domestic violence a voice and help to ensure that politicians and other key decision makers are listening.

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