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Posted by: John Brace | 15th April 2011

Anonymous Registration – Electoral Roll – One less reason not to register to vote

One of the common things you hear from people on the doorstep as to why they won’t vote is that they don’t want people tracking them down through the electoral roll.

However people can register anonymously. If for example you fear domestic violence or are in an occupation where your name and address needs to be kept private. Evidence of this such as a court order or from a senior police officer or senior Social Services officer is required.

Out of the 10,000 electors in Bidston & St. James one has chosen this route, but it is not very well publicised as it has only been available to people for the last few years. At the end of each polling district is a “Other Electors” section that for electors not connected with a specific address eg overseas voters. Anonymous registrations are put here but instead of a name there is just a letter (N) followed by a poll number where the name would be.

Those who are anonymously registered are sent a polling card in a windowless envelope. They are the only voter who has to take this polling card to vote. When they do so, their name and address is not read out.

Their information is not shared with candidates or political parties but only a select number of people prescribed by law. Joanna Perry, Policy Manager, Victim Support said:

“Anonymous registration is a big step forward for people who are in fear of their safety, or even their life. We know of situations where a perpetrator has subsequently found the victim and caused considerable distress or further harm, and in some situations killed them.

“So it is vital that victims who live in fear are informed of the option to register anonymously and still participate in the right to vote that is available to us all.”


Responses

  1. In case it helps – I’ve covered this and other issues about electoral registration on my reference page at http://www.markpack.org.uk/electoral-register/

    • Thanks, although it doesn’t just cover instances of domestic violence.

      The anonymous registration scheme has slight differences between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Basically an anonymous registration can be used if somebody would be at risk if the register contains their name and address. However the current system still allows a person to be tracked down to a polling district area (some of which are very small areas!).

      Those who are anonymously registered can’t vote by post, as the list of postal voters (and addresses) is made public. They are also (the only class of voter I know) who have to take their polling card when voting at the polling station (without their polling card they are not permitted to vote). The polling station clerk is trained not to read out their address when voting. It can cover for instance witnesses in criminal trials, vulnerable people and those in sensitive jobs (eg work for the security services etc).

      A test is applied as to whether “the safety of the applicant for anonymous entry or that of any person of the same household would be at risk if the register contains the name of the applicant or their qualifying address” .

      Those who are anonymously registered are not allowed to sign the nomination papers for a candidate, however they are allowed to donate to a political party. Checking whether they are a permissible donor would involve the party checking with the local Returning Officer or asking the donor for some kind of documentation of their anonymous registration status.

      Clearly as a candidate, anonymous voters at unknown addresses are so few (outnumbered by overseas voters) would get a Focus, but apart from adding a little mystery to the process would be difficult to write directly to (as generally political parties concentrate on those who vote).


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