The project sought to improve awareness of voter ID requirements amongst Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities in London, and to encourage voter registration and electoral participation amongst these communities, part of the GLA Voter ID community grants. Voter ID workshops were delivered in Greenwich, Ealing and Harrow; with the project also being promoted at other Traveller Movement (TM) events organised for separate projects.
Events held in Greenwich and Harrow both took place in the homes of GRT community members who are current or former volunteers for the charity, who invited friends and families to their homes for informal information sessions. This approach allowed us to connect with community members who may have been unlikely to attend a more ‘formal’ event held at, e.g. a community hall or the TM offices. Events taking place in a familiar venue allowed for a participatory format, with attendees asking questions and seeking guidance throughout the duration of events.
Event attendees developed a significantly increased understanding of voter registration. At the Greenwich event, one attendee said:
“I thought if you were registered then it was illegal not to vote, that’s why I’ve never registered. I don’t want to break the law if there’s no politicians I like! If I knew I could register without being forced to vote I’d have done it much sooner.”
Materials and resources which clarified misconceptions about voter registration, the open register, and the electoral and non-electoral benefits of registering to vote generated the most engagement, and attendees reported an increased understanding of how to register to vote and the reasons for doing so.
Over the project, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that many people from GRT backgrounds possess an accepted photo ID, including those who are resident on Traveller sites, as well as those in bricks and mortar accommodation. While many still do not know about the changes to voting rights or some might need further support to get photo Voter ID, detachment from/ indifference to electoral politics appears to be the biggest barrier to democratic participation. TM had anticipated this disillusionment and apathy and has created materials to counter this, but will promote this aspect of the project even more heavily in the future.
Some participants do not possess birth certificates or national insurance numbers, creating significant barriers in both registering to vote and in acquiring a free Voter Authority Certificate. In future, TM would create specific resources and copy to support this group of people who require specific and bespoke support in obtaining such documentation.