No home? No problem!

Source: Zac Durant (via Unsplash)

by Adam Clarke

Homeless people in Cardiff and other cities have been given the chance to register to vote for the first time by business owners.

As (I hope) you all know, the deadline for registering to vote in the upcoming election was on Tuesday and there was, by all accounts, a massive rise in the amount of last-minute registrations this year compared to previous elections. 300,000 people registered within 24 hours on Tuesday and at least two thirds of the 3.2 million people who registered in total are thought to be first-time voters. However, when registering you may have noticed that it asked you a few questions about your address, where you live or have lived and how long you have lived there. What if you don’t live anywhere? Can you still vote? Or are you excluded from the electorate by being homeless?

Image result for polling station
Some businesses are letting homeless people use their address to register to vote. Source: secretlondon123 (via flickr)

The short answer is no, you aren’t excluded, and the government website does allow you to register to vote if you have no fixed abode. However, you do need some sort of address, and that can be a problem if you don’t live anywhere permanently or don’t have a job. Help came from perhaps an unlikely source, in the form of private business owners who allowed homeless people to register to vote using their address. This began in Bristol with the Bristol Beer Factory and other businesses around the country, from Glasgow to Bournemouth, have followed their lead, including Ten Feet Tall right here in Cardiff. 

Caitlin Whelan, the marketing manager of the bar in Cardiff said in an interview to ITV, “We are a city centre venue and we feel it is really important this time around, as at any time, to give people the opportunity to have their say.”. A noble sentiment when you consider how a change in policy or party can have such a massive impact on the plight of homeless people. It would be ludicrous if these people who could be so affected by the outcome of the election, were to have their right to vote removed by a technicality.

“I can think of no group of people in this country who deserve their right to vote more than the homeless.”

The impact this could have is obviously unknown but the numbers of homeless or vulnerably housed people in Cardiff alone could sway a marginal seat. For example, in the constituency of Cardiff North, after the 2017 election Labour gained the seat from the Conservatives with a majority of just 4000 votes, in the election before that, in 2015, the Tory majority was under 2000 votes. Last year, over 4000 people asked Cardiff council for help with regard to homelessness. The vast majority of these people were provided with suitable accommodation however, if even a quarter of these people remain in vulnerable or non-fixed abodes then having them registered to vote could sway a vote one way or the other.

I can think of no group of people in this country who deserve their right to vote more than the homeless. Anything that allows them to have a say on the future of this country, and by relation, themselves is a good thing in my book. So, good on Ten Feet Tall and any other business or organisation that make it easier for the homeless or vulnerable to vote. It’s our election to define our future, and that includes all of us.

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