For the first time in years, a Lords’ Private Members Bill has a very good chance of passing into legislation thanks to support from the government and opposition. Its aim? To close down so-called ‘family voting’.
Family voting is the practice whereby – not always but in the vast majority of cases – the patriarch of the family stands over his wife or teenage children in the ballot box, telling them how to vote. According to the UN, Family Voting:
“often stops women from casting a vote of their own choice. In many situations, while the woman physically casts her own vote, she is under a strong cultural expectation to obey her husband or father and vote for the candidate or party that she has been instructed to vote for.”
According to a Democracy Volunteers report of UK local elections in 2022, family voting occurred in 25% of all the polling stations they observed, with England seeing 21% and Northern Ireland a whopping 42%.
The Lords’ Private Members Bill is the brainchild of Lord Hayward, and less than an hour ago passed the final committee stages in the Lords. It will now head to the Commons with full government support.
According to a 2015 Manchester University paper for the Electoral Commission, they found evidence among interviewees in Pakistani and Bangladeshi-origin communities that more hierarchical family structures means women are often expected to “follow the lead of the head of the household,” creating additional Family Voting vulnerability among ethnic minority households.
When passed into law it will close up the current legal loophole and give presiding officers much more authority to demand individuals are able to stand alone while casting their votes in the ballot booths – with obvious exceptions for the disabled, blind and parents voting with young children. A long overdue reform…