Catherine Heggie talks about the Electoral Commission's approach to engaging with people who face barriers to voting, and the resources that third sector organisations can use to raise awareness.
With the recent extension of the right to vote in Scotland, anyone aged 16 or over can vote in the Scottish Parliament election on Thursday 6 May, regardless of where they were born.
We recently launched our national public awareness campaign ahead of the election to encourage those who aren’t already registered to do so by midnight on Monday 19 April at gov.uk/register-to-vote. The campaign highlights that registering to vote is quick and easy, and only takes five minutes. We recognise, though, that many people may experience barriers to registering to vote and participating in the election, maybe because they are disabled, don’t speak English as a first language, or have never voted before.
We want to make sure that everyone has the information and support they need to cast their vote with confidence, and this is why we work in partnership with a range of organisations who have trusted relationships with their communities and understand the needs of the people they work with.
Democratic engagement resources
As well as creating a range of digital and print resources that you can use to run your own awareness campaign, we’ve also worked with partners to develop political engagement resources for newly-enfranchised groups.
Running a bath? Or waiting for your kettle to boil? Our Got5? registration campaign reminds voters that they need to be registered if they want to vote, and that it only takes five minutes. You can use our digital and print voter registration resources to remind your service-users about the importance of registering ahead of the deadline on 19 April.
Polling stations will be safe places to vote, and voters can expect to see many of the hygiene and physical distancing measures we’ve become used to seeing in shops and other indoor spaces.
Voters also have the option to vote by post or proxy (where you choose someone you trust to vote on your behalf). Postal vote applications need to be posted in time to arrive at the local Electoral Registration Office well before the deadline of 5pm on 6 April. Applications for proxy votes must be submitted by 5pm on 27 April.
We’ve created a range of digital and print voter information resources which you can use to highlight the different voting options, what to expect when voting during Covid-19, how to cast your vote and asking for help at the polling place.
Welcome to your vote resources
The election on 6 May will be the first opportunity for newly-enfranchised foreign nationals and many young people to vote in a Scottish Parliament election. To help partners spread the word to these groups about their right to vote, we’ve created Welcome to your vote digital and print resources.
If you work with young people, you can use our new political literacy resources for 14-18 year olds to help them develop their confidence around voting. These include videos, a voting guide, and an educator’s handbook with group activities.
We also worked with the Scottish Refugee Council to develop voting resources for refugee communities, which include a facilitator guide for people who work with New Scots, and a voting FAQ, which is available in Arabic, Farsi and Kurdish.
Guidance for professionals working with domestic abuse survivors
Those who feel that their name and address being on the electoral register could affect their safety, or the safety of someone in their household, such as domestic abuse survivors, can apply to register to vote anonymously. In partnership with Scottish Women’s Aid, we published a guide for professionals who work with survivors of domestic abuse.
Guidance for organisations working with people experiencing homelessness
People who are experiencing homelessness or don’t have a settled address can still register to vote. With support from the Everyone Home Collective, we published a guide for professionals working with people who don’t have a settled address.
We’re keen to talk to people across the third sector about what more we can be doing to ensure that everyone who wants to have their say in the election has the information and support they need to do so.
Please feel free to contact me by emailing Cheggie@electoralcommission.org.uk if you want to talk about working together.