St Helens South and Whiston MP, Marie Rimmer, has today called for urgent action from Ministers to end the disenfranchisement of domestic abuse survivors.
During Cabinet Office questions, Marie highlighted the difficulties domestic abuse survivors face trying to register to vote anonymously.
Cabinet Office Minister, Chris Skidmore MP committed to action, saying “The Government will look closely at representations from Women’s Aid and other charities. I’d be happy to meet with the Honourable Member since we are determined that no one should be denied the opportunity to vote.”
Marie Rimmer MP said: “On average, two women in England and Wales are killed each week by their former or current partner. For a large number of domestic abuse survivors, maintaining anonymity is simply a matter of life and death. Imagine finding the strength and courage to escape domestic abuse, only to find that you are effectively silenced by the system from making your voice heard.
“Individual electoral registration has already led to thousands of voters falling off the electoral roll. I’m pleased with the positive response from the Minister and hope these warms words will urgently turn into action, to end this injustice and ensure thousands more voters aren’t disenfranchised from the future elections.”
Currently, to vote anonymously, you must have evidence from the criminal justice system that you have experienced domestic abuse, and/or an attestation from a ‘qualifying officer’. The ‘qualifying officers’ are individuals most of the public will be unable to access, including: police officers of or above the rank of superintendent, the Director General of MI5, or a director of adult or children’s social services. The campaign is calling for this group to be extended to include refuge managers and some healthcare professionals.
Polly Neate of Women’s Aid said: “Survivors of domestic abuse are often silenced due to the abuse they have experienced, and feel like they have lost their voice. It is crucial that women in refuges are able to participate fully in the democratic process – just like everyone else – and that the regulations in place around anonymous registration are changed to ensure that any survivor of domestic abuse can register to vote safely. Domestic abuse should not deny women their vote.”
The introduction of individual electoral registration has created the perverse scenario where survivors must provide fresh evidence every year in order to remain anonymous. Exemptions are already in place for members of the Armed Forces and campaigners are calling for the introduction of an exception for domestic abuse survivors too.