The Electoral Commission

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Registering to vote now easier for those at risk

Published: 3 Apr 2018

A change to the law that will make it easier for people to register to vote anonymously in Scotland without compromising their safety has been welcomed by the Electoral Commission and Scottish Women’s Aid.

To ensure that those who are entitled to register anonymously are aware of their rights to do so, the Commission has worked with Scottish Women’s Aid to produce guidance for refuge managers as well as for local authority electoral registration officers and is supporting organisations, including the Royal College of Midwives to produce guidance for their members.

Dame Susan Bruce, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland said:

“Everyone should be able to vote safely, no matter what their circumstances, and these important changes are a vital step towards achieving this. From today many people will find it easier to register to vote, ending a situation which has seen too many people disenfranchised in the past.

“GPs, Nurses, midwives, police inspectors and refuge managers will now be able to attest to someone’s request to register anonymously. The guidance that has been produced will mean that those professionals will be able to support a vulnerable person to register to vote without compromising their safety, and have their voice heard in our democracy.”

Marsha Scott, CEO, Scottish Women’s Aid, said:

“100 years ago some women won the right to vote, but it’s clear that the fight to ensure equal access to democracy is not yet over. Women experiencing domestic abuse have for far too long been forced to trade in their right to vote for the need to live in safety.

Anonymous voter registration is necessary and it is important. Being able to vote is a right, not a privilege; we warmly welcome these long overdue changes and are pleased that the rights of survivors are being acknowledged and extended.”

Anonymous voter registration is the process whereby someone can register without having their name or address disclosed publicly. The new law makes it easier to register anonymously by:

  • Broadening the range of professionals able to attest (support) an application to include refuge managers, GPs, nurses and midwives;
  • Lowering the level of seniority of those in the police force who may attest an application from superintendent to inspector; and
  • Expanding the list of court orders to include Domestic Violence protection Orders and Female Genital Mutilation Orders.

The changes come into force in Scotland today (1 April). Anyone looking to register to vote anonymously can find out more on the Commission’s Your Vote Matters website here.

Ends

For further information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 07789 920 414 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk

Guidance for refuge managers in Scotland produced jointly with Scottish Women’s Aid can be found here.

Guidance for local authority electoral registration offices can be found here (from page 112).

Notes to editors

  1. Anonymous voter registration was introduced in Great Britain in 2006 through the Electoral Administration Act. This Act amended the Representation of the People Act 1983 and provided for the overall structure of the scheme.
  2. Under previous legislation, people registering anonymously had to provide a specific court order or injunction prescribed in law or an attestation from a senior professional, such as a Police Superintendent or Director General of the Security Services or the National Crime Agency.
  3. The difference between a standard and an anonymous registration is how these details then appear on the electoral register. An ‘N’ is used to signify that an entry relates to an anonymously registered voter and none of their personal details will appear on the electoral register, and their name will not be included on any registration forms sent to the household.
  4. The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:
  • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
  • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
  • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

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