Click on this video link to the January 12th, 2012 debate in the House of Lords on Electoral Registration in which the issue of the 15-year-limit discrimination against overseas voters was raised, as well as the ineffectiveness of the postal voting system which results in overseas voters being “basically disenfranchised every time an election is held”.
Fast forward the timer 42 minutes, to hear Lord Lexden’s view that the 15-year-limit should be abolished as British overseas voters are essentially discriminated against, compared with the way other advanced democracies treat their expatriates’ voting rights.
On the ineffectiveness of the postal voting system which particularly impacts overseas voters, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws who spoke after Lord Lexden said that ” …. what I really want us to consider is the business of postal voting because I think that it should be revisited. If we are going to look at ways of making our electoral system better, we have to revisit it. Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires Governments to hold free elections that will,
“ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature”.
That is important whether it be for local elections, European elections or our general elections. In 2006, a motion was placed before the Council of Europe that there was enough fraud involved in the system of postal voting in the UK to make us fall foul of our duties under Article 3. I am afraid that we were criticised by the Council of Europe for the system that we have in operation, so it should be revisited.
Lord Astor who spoke after Baroness Kennedy then wished “to concentrate on postal voting, particularly postal voting from overseas” He went on to say that “perhaps I may quote a counting officer at the last election who said, “The timescale is too tight to allow sufficient time for overseas electors to complete and return their ballot papers. They are basically being disenfranchised every time an election is held. One overseas elector called on polling day as he had just received his postal vote, despite an early turnaround and issue by airmail”.
Lord Astor concluded “that is the problem, and as my noble friend Lord Lexden said, there were only just over 30,000 overseas voters on the register at the last election out of 5 million British citizens who live abroad, of whom at least 3.5 million are probably eligible to vote. We ought to do something in this country to encourage them to take part in the electoral system. Many people go abroad or work abroad, but that does not mean to say that they have lost interest in this country. They read English newspapers on the internet every morning, and indeed many of them want to return to this country at some point in the future. They should be able to take part in our electoral system.”