British political parties usually take good care of the older generation with 94% of those aged 65 or more registered to vote, compared e.g. with only 56% of 19-24 year olds, hence the recent furore over the “Granny tax” in the Budget. However, it’s different for those living overseas. As the efforts of the Electoral Commission below illustrate, it’s difficult enough pushing up voter registration rates in the UK, let alone for those overseas. In addition, the fact that those aged 65+ are much more likely to vote than the younger generation means that proportionally more overseas votes are lost from this older generation after 15 years as a non-UK resident. This greater sense of responsibility of the older generation is demonstrated by pensioner and WWII veteran Harry Shindler, who is challenging the British government in the European Court of Human Rights over the 15-year-limit on his UK voting rights.
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The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK parliament to provide integrity and public confidence in the democratic process. In December 2010 it calculated that at least 6 million of those eligible to vote were not on the Electoral Register. Ahead of the fast approaching 3rd May local elections, therefore, it is endeavouring to improve the overall registration rate and e.g. employing social media such as Twitter to reach out to those still to register. It is tweeting to reach out to particularly younger voters to register before the deadline of 18th April.
In support of its campaign the Electoral Commission is quoting some interesting research statistics:
- Only 56% of 19-24 year olds are registered to vote, compared with 94% of those aged 65+.
- Only 56% of EU (non-British) citizens resident in the UK and entitled under EU law to vote in local elections where they are resident, are registered to vote.
- Only 14% of people who moved into their new home after the annual canvass in autumn 2010 were on the Electoral Register in April 2011, leading the Electoral Commission to appeal to estate agents in Estate Agent Today for help in getting new property owners registered.
- I in 3 people erroneously believe that paying council tax means you’re automatically registered to vote.
Still eligible to register to vote in UK elections? Click here: www.aboutmyvote.co.uk
Given the above difficulties in registering the local vote, aren’t the problems even greater in addressing those eligible but not registered to vote in UK national elections within the other 6 million or so in the overseas British communities? Doesn’t this rather nullify the argument of those who point to the relatively low registration rates of overseas voters as a reason for not removing the 15-year-limit on their voting rights? Indeed, even if unwittingly, the 15-year-limit also seems to more adversely impact the older generation. Those less likely to vote it seems from the above statistics i.e. in the 19-24 year old bracket, are not impacted until they are 35 years old or more, compared with a 50 year old more likely to vote but being deprived of this right at 65+, the latter generation with a 94% registration rate in the UK.
A fine example of the voting commitment of the 65+ age group is WWII veteran Harry Shindler, a long term resident in Italy but challenging the British government in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over the 15-year-limit on his voting rights.