Government Commits to Help Survivors of Domestic Abuse Vote Safely
On 3rd March, the government committed to helping survivors of domestic violence vote safely by making it easier to register anonymously on the Electoral Register.
The ability to register anonymously on the Electoral Register is of key importance to survivors of domestic violence, stalking or harassment, as being entered on the open register means that they could be traced by their abuser. Although anonymous registration has previously been available, the guidelines were very strict; for many survivors leaving refuge, they often had to choose between being able to vote or being able to stay safe.
Mehala Osbourne supported by Women’s Aid set up a petition so that people in safe houses and refuges could be given anonymous registration, to enable them to vote. We also understood that this issue remained for people once they had left refuge and so Karen Jardine, Campaigns and Administration Officer at Notts SVS Services, supported by several Nottingham-based charities set up an additional petition on this issue.
Nottingham charities Equation, Nottingham Women’s Centre and Women’s Aid Integrated Services (WAIS) supported the petition. Karen was approached by the media and, shortly after, was able to secure a meeting with the Electoral Commission. This meeting enabled representatives from Notts SVS Services, Nottingham Women’s Centre and WAIS to explore the issue further and look at possible solutions, such as expanding the list of documents accepted as ‘proof’ and allowing refuge managers to support applications to the anonymous register. We also wrote to Chris Skidmore MP, Minister for the Constitution, who was leading the work on this issue.
We are pleased that that the government has listened to the issues raised, through meetings with Mehala, Women’s Aid and other groups and has produced a policy statement in response to this. We are looking forward to commenting further on this issue, particularly around renewing and transferring anonymous registration from one area to another. We are hopeful that all the proposals are taken forward and that, together with additional requests we will be making, survivors of domestic and sexual violence will be able to vote safely and participate in society as a whole.
If you would like to make your own response to the Government’s policy statement, details can be found on the following link.
Update: the calling of the snap general election means that none of the changes consulted on will have been implemented in time for 8th June, leaving many survivors of domestic violence unable to vote in safety. However, we have responded to the consultation and will be watching for developments in this area once the new government is formed.