Many of us are praying about how we cast our vote in this important election. But there will be some who won’t be able to vote for different reasons.

The Bible commands us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Proverbs 31:8). As we prepare to cast our vote we should remember these groups in particular.

  1. The Homeless. Registering to vote normally means supplying an address. There are some ways around this, and homelessness charities have provided some helpful information. However, this added complexity may well mean that the homeless – and indeed others with no fixed address – will be less well represented on polling day. With this in mind, those of us who have votes should be even keener to speak up for them. 

  2. The Imprisoned. This has been a controversial area of dispute between the UK Government and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Currently, prisoners serving a custodial sentence cannot vote in UK elections – though this has been challenged in Scotland and Wales for those serving shorter sentences. Some approve of a restriction on prisoners voting as an appropriate deprivation of liberty, while others see it as the removal of a core democratic right from an often-vulnerable constituency. Regardless of where we stand on this, those in prison need our prayers, as do Christian organisations working there, in chaplaincy and rehabilitation. 

  3. The Disabled. There is no ban on those with physical or mental disabilities from voting, and indeed welcome efforts have been made around accessibility. However, the process is often tougher in ways it is difficult for those without such impairments to imagine. This is particularly the case for those who suffer from less visible conditions, whose needs are more easily overlooked. And that’s before we even get onto the increased anxiety of a fraught period in politics, which can take its toll on the mental health of some. So if you’re friends with someone who suffers from an illness or disability, why not ask them if they’re OK, and whether you can be of any assistance?

  4. The Old. The elderly may face the same challenges as those who suffer from disabilities, with infirmity or bad weather perhaps preventing them from getting to the polling station. Perhaps you can help an elderly neighbour to go and vote? In addition, however, as politics has sometimes divided on generational lines, there are some who have stoked unfortunate rhetoric about the older generation having less of a right to vote, or less welcome voices in national debates. This undermines our common citizenship and we should have no part in it. Instead, it’s our role as the church to model something different, and be a place where all generations are honoured. 

  5. The Young. Likewise, there are those who are too young to vote – i.e. who are under the age of 18. There are of course ongoing debates about the voting age, which seems a somewhat arbitrary number. Indeed, in Wales, votes at 16 have been introduced for the Welsh Assembly (from 2021). However, there will always be politically-engaged young people frustrated at their inability to vote in a key election or referendum, when the next opportunity may not come for a few years. As with the older generation, let’s not look down on our young people for their youth, but listen to them as we decide on our vote. 

  6. The Immigrant. There’s another group whose inability to vote caused some controversy recently: EU citizens. Most EU citizens (excluding the Irish and Maltese) cannot vote in general elections, while non-EU non-Commonwealth citizens cannot vote in any elections. Of course there are arguments in favour of this, and those who choose to live in the UK do have the option of applying for citizenship. That said, the recent EU referendum, and the focus on immigration in our recent political debates, have heightened the sense that our vote may impact the lives of those who do not have the same voice. 

  7. The Abused. Lastly, there are those who are abused or exploited in some way and who are prevented from voting. For example, concerns have been raised about women escaping domestic abuse who want to apply for anonymity on the electoral register. Other vulnerable people may also be the subject of different kinds of coercion, or even electoral fraud. We should pray for those caught up in such situations, but should also report suspicions we may have – more information is available online.

And there are other groups who are also disenfranchised in some more subtle way, from holders of minority views in safe seats, to those disillusioned at all parties alike. We should pray for and think of all these voiceless groups especially as we approach this election. We do this in recognition of our God’s care for the vulnerable, and as a reminder of the fallen state of even reasonably good political institutions. Our democracy is not a utopia; it does not always work well, and so it needs voices for justice within it. 

How will you speak up for the voiceless in this election?