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Draft orders to reform the system of anonymous registration were laid before Parliament in December 2017. They were subject to the affirmative procedure and had to be approved by both Houses Parliament. The House of Commons passed them in February 2018 and the House of Lords on 1 March 2018. They took effect in July 2018.

Anonymous registration allows people whose safety would be at risk if their name or address were listed on the electoral register, for example survivors of domestic abuse, to register to vote without their details made public.

This system for registering anonymously was introduce in 2006. An application must be submitted to an electoral registration officer in writing and must provide certain evidence that the person applying is at risk. This evidence can either be:

  • a live court order or injunction from a set list of orders and injunctions; or
  • an attestation about the risk to their safety made by a qualifying officer, such as a Superintendent of Police or a Director of Social Services.

This level of evidence had been criticised by some for making anonymous registration too difficult or complex for many. Women’s Aid criticised the system, saying that for women living in a refuge it was currently “an almost insurmountable challenge” to register to vote stating that, “these are not the kind of people that survivors of domestic abuse come into contact with in everyday life”. Their experience of survivors of domestic violence was that fewer than half of domestic abuse survivors have involved the police or the criminal justice system and that health professionals were more likely to come into contact with victims.

In 2016 the Government committed to consult on reforming the anonymous registration. In March 2017 it produced a policy document, A democracy that works for everyone: survivors of domestic abuse Policy Statement, which contained proposals to extend the number of court orders that could be used as evidence. The proposals were to include Domestic Violence Protections Orders and Female Genital Mutilation Orders, both newer orders that were not included within the scope of the scheme (the scheme has been modified before to include new types of court orders). These were confirmed by the draft orders.

It also proposed lowering the rank of police officer required to allow an officer to attest. The proposals also considered adding more junior social workers, refuge managers and registered health professionals to the list of qualifying officers able to attest.

Following consultation, the level of social worker able to sign off on an attestation remains at director level. However, the rank of police officer who can attest has been reduced to inspector, generally the rank of police force leads for domestic violence. Registered health professionals and refuge manners are also now included.

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