The government has announced plans to make it easier for survivors of domestic abuse to register to vote anonymously.
Under current law, victims who apply for such anonymity must provide a court order or have the support of a ‘senior independent witness’ such as police superintendent. However ministers believe that these strict requirements could have put people off registering to vote at all.
The government’s plan will increase the number of people who can be used as witnesses. These will include medical and healthcare professionals as well as people who work in refuges. The types of evidence which can be put forward in support of such applications will also be expanded.
These changes are expected to especially benefit victims who are no longer living in a domestic violence refuge but are still in hiding from their abuser.
The Cabinet Office has also announced plans to conduct further research to identify any other possible obstacles that abuse victims face when registering to vote. Ministers hope that this research will help shape future policy on the issue.
Minister for the Constitution Chris Skidmore said that making sure “every eligible person is able to vote is a matter of social justice”. These new plans were just one step towards “ensuring we have a democracy that works for everyone” he added.
The government announcement included a statement by Women’s Aid. Chief Executive Katie Ghose said the changes would “help survivors of domestic abuse to regain their voices”. For a long time, victims of abuse had been effectively 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” she explained.
The measures would “send out a clear message to all survivors of domestic abuse: that their voices matter, and their right to vote should never be taken away” Ghose claimed.