With the upcoming general election just weeks away, it’s important that everyone who has the right to vote is given the opportunity to do so. It is a common trend that people experiencing multiple and complex needs are under-represented in voting statistics. So, with this in mind, at a recent meeting with our Expert Citizen Group, the process of registering to vote was at the top of the agenda!
After making teas and coffees and having a catch-up, talk quickly turned to the general election, and two key points were made almost immediately by the Expert Citizen Group. Firstly, they didn’t know how to register to vote; and secondly, they didn’t have enough knowledge surrounding the election.
So, as a starting point we went through some voting information, including the below with a little help from the Homeless Link website!
You don’t need an address to vote – there is a registration form for no fixed or permanent address.
You can opt-out of the open register – the closed register is not available to businesses (including those who might chase debt). Local Authorities can access the closed register (but only for the purpose of law enforcement) and it can also be used for calling people for Jury Service.
It is possible to be entirely anonymous when you vote – a person can be anonymous on the electoral register if there is a specific concern for their safety (but evidence must be provided).
Everyone was really engaged with this, so we started to talk about reasons to vote including…
Having an impact – we discussed how policy decisions will be influenced by the electorate. So for example, if there is an increase in homeless people registering to vote, politicians are more likely to make decisions around issues that are relevant to them, such as healthcare and social housing.
The Expert Citizens said they didn’t realise this and it was useful to them, with two of the team registering to vote then and there!
Positive change – we looked at some examples of positive change through campaigns. These included Oxfam campaigning to introduce a law stating 0.7% of national income must be spent on life saving aid; Friends of the Earth campaigning to introduce the Climate Change Bill; The League Against Cruel Sports campaigning to ban hunting with dogs; and LGBT Groups campaigning to remove Section 28 (which stated that Local Councils couldn’t promote homosexuality, meaning support groups closed).
The session was really positive. It turned out that one of Expert Citizens was already registered to vote, and everyone else took a form away and said they were going to register.
Every vote really does matter so please make sure you get registered and get your voice heard too!
Sam Ward (Personal Development Coordinator), Robert Eagle, Sandra Morgan, Deonne Peters, and Lee Orrell (Beneficiary Ambassadors),Opportunity Nottingham
Zoe Benedelow, SEA