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Not long left! Homelessness is no barrier to voting in the general election

But with the deadline to register to vote set to close tomorrow, act now to have your say on December 12

Polling station iStock

It’s being billed as the most important general election in years – and there’s only one day left to ensure that you have your say.

Breezy advertising campaigns chirp about how it only takes five minutes to vote and while that’s true for the lion’s share of Brits, things are a little more complicated for homeless people.

However, it must be stressed that you can vote in this election if you have no fixed or permanent address. And having no access to a computer and the internet is also not a barrier.

Homeless and vulnerably housed Big Issue vendors are among the group of people who may struggle to arrange their vote, which is why our Sales and Distribution teams around the country have been working to help them register in time for the November 26 deadline.

Cardiff seller Mark Richards, 44, has registered to vote for the first time with the help of our Cardiff Sales and Distribution team.

“It’s the first time I have registered to vote in my 44 years and I have registered this time because I’m having problems with my landlord and I want to vote Labour to sort it out,” said Mark, who also works one day a week in The Big Issue office sorting out magazine subscriptions. “I never registered before because I couldn’t be bothered and I had other things go on but I got help to register and it was easy.

“I think that other vendors should definitely register too but that is just my opinion, it is up to them.”

Elsewhere, The Big Issue’s Bournemouth service broker Kelvin Wilmott has been offering to help vendors register for the past week.

He said: “Last week when vendors were coming into the office, I was asking if they would like to register to vote.

“A lot of vendors weren’t interested but one vendor who initially said no, came back later when the office was quiet and he came back and sat down with me to fill out the form and we sent it to the town hall. It was the first time that he had registered to vote.”

How can you register to vote without a permanent address?

To vote, you need to give an address where you have lived in the past or where you spend a substantial amount of time. Fill this in on an electoral registration form and sign the declaration form before returning the form and evidence to your local electoral registration office.

But it’s important to remember that this can still prove challenging for people living on the streets. It can be difficult to keep hold of forms, especially with the current wet weather, while finding out where the local electoral registration office is can also be tough with no computer access.

Who has come forward to help people homeless people register to vote?

There are plenty of generous people and companies who have offered homeless people a place to access forms and an address to use in their registration (although permission to use an address is not explicitly required). In Liverpool, Fans Supporting Foodbanks are offering help at the city’s Parr Studio 2 ahead of the deadline.

In Bristol, Arnolfini Café Bar are one such place, even chucking in a free hot drink for any homeless person who pops in to register.

In the Welsh capital Cardiff, bar 10 Feet Tall is doing the same, as are Cinema & Co in Swansea.

And up in Scotland, the team behind Lighthouse bookshop are also offering a space to help homeless people register – after being inspired by the gesture in Bristol – while, fittingly, homeless-run café chain Social Bite are tying it into their Social Suppers taking place just before registration closes.

This is just a handful of the groups who have pledged to help with plenty more across the country.

Others may also struggle to register to vote because of their address

It’s not just homeless people who can run into address issues in this election. The nature of the private rental market means that many renters are frequently on the move and brings with it the danger of not being registered at their current address.

This is an issue that campaigners Generation Rent have pointed out today after studying figures from the census, Electoral Commission and English Housing Survey.

GR reckon that an estimated 5.7 million eligible voters are in private rents yet only 3.3 million of them are registered to cast their vote in the December 12 election. With 2.4 million people not able to head to the polls, there is a strong chance this could have an impact on marginal seats.

This is also true off dry land. The snappily titled Votey McVoteface is mobilising the boater vote to ensure people living on boats also don’t fall foul of the registration deadline because they are of no fixed abode. If you have moored up in Bristol, London, Hebden Bridge/Todmorden, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Nottingham then you could have a say in marginal votes, say campaigners.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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