MP Chris helps abuse survivors to vote in safety

April 04 2017

DOMESTIC abuse campaigners have welcomed a new scheme that makes it easier for people to take part in elections without compromising their safety.

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DOMESTIC abuse campaigners have welcomed a new scheme that makes it easier for people to take part in elections without compromising their safety.

Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore has published reforms that will make the anonymous registration scheme in England and Wales more accessible to those escaping domestic abuse.

The anonymous registration scheme protects people whose safety would be at risk if their name and address appeared in the electoral register and includes victims of harassment or stalking, as well as some witnesses in criminal court cases.

The current system has come under criticism for lacking the flexibility and understanding of various scenarios which survivors of domestic abuse often find themselves in. 

This can include limiting police attestations to police officers at or above the rank of superintendent, and restricting social services attestations to directors of social services.

Among the measures are plans to update the list of court and other orders that are acceptable as evidence of the risk to an applicant, and lowering the seniority required for an attestor from the police or social services.

The minister has been working with domestic abuse charities for six months.Women’s Aid estimates that the proposals could help thousands of survivors of domestic abuse.

Mehala Osborne, survivor, Kingswood resident and founder of the Right to Vote campaign, said: “I was denied a vote whilst living in a refuge, and I never realised how much having a vote meant until it was taken away from me. 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 changes. Survivors in the future will not be denied their voice and democratic right to vote.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Domestic abuse must not deny women their right to take part in democracy. The proposed new measures send out a clear message to all survivors of domestic abuse: that their voices matter, and their participation in politics matters.”

Mr Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution, said: “This government is committed to removing any barriers that prevent voters from exercising their democratic right. Protecting the safety of survivors by making it easier for them to register to vote without their name and address appearing on the electoral register is a key part of that change."