Continuing the theme as to whether British citizens living abroad are apathetic or not about voting in UK elections (as is still your right for up to 15 years), Australia is a good example to take, hosting the largest (+1 million) and farthest removed group out of the estimated total of 5 – 6 million expat Brits. British citizens living in Australia have also contributed the largest proportion (over 33%) of the total 2208 votes received to date on our sign-up poll.
A reply from pierrepierpont says:
“Not so much about apathy necessarily. More so about the barriers put in place by successive British governments. Paper based ballot papers that require postage from the UK to Australia and back again and needing to be physically returned by polling day in order to be counted. Less than 20,000 overseas votes in the last general election out of millions who are eligible. Why not introduce voting by secure internet – that would certainly increase the participation rate but UK politicians are not interested. I can vote for the executive of the National Trust by internet, for the executive of my political party by internet and for the executive of my professional body by internet – why is it so hard to vote in a general election or council election by internet?”
A further sample of views was then explored “around the barbie“ in the Australia Forum of britishexpats.com:
“Why on earth would I vote in an election in a country I don’t live in?”
“I’m a dual citizen and yes of course I vote here in both local and federal elections.”
“If you don’t exercise your right to vote, then perhaps you don’t really have a right to complain when the MP’s do something that you don’t like?”
“Why should I even be able to vote in UK elections?”
“I’ve lived and worked in Australia for over 5 years, it would be wrong to interfere with the election in another country…..”
“Can’t the consulate and high commission (act) as (a) ballot releasing and processing centre?”
“If everyone voted just for policies, then nothing would ever get done. You have to vote for the party that you think will do the best for you. They cannot cater for individual whims, and yes, sometimes they do lie, or change policies- sometimes they are forced to by economic circumstances. I know sometimes you don’t get much of a choice, and don’t like what they do
but at the moment that is the way democracy works.
And I have voted in UK elections since I have been here- whether my vote got counted, I don’t know, but I did exercise my right. After all, women fought hard to get the right to vote, and I’m not going to lose it through apathy. The UK still holds my pension, and I’m a British Citizen so I have not completely cut my ties with it.”
“Irish people have no way of voting once they leave the country. They have to return to do that. So, no chance for me unless I happen to be in the country at that time. This is an issue as not for the first time, Irish people have been forced to emmigrate due to diabolical economic circumstances in Ireland brought on largely by the government. Not having a say in how it gets fixed (which could lead to a way back home) is insulting to those who’ve lost their jobs, homes and support of their families.
For English people who’ve had similar experiences, being on the other side of the world means you get no vote either. You’ve have a chance if you lived somewhere else in Europe.”
“Voting, regardless of how you feel about the contenders is very important. You’re going to end up with someone, so pick one that you believe will do the best of the lot.”
“It wouldn’t occur to me to vote in an election in Britain. I’ve not lived there for seven years, it would be outrageous to do so imo. I pay no UK taxes, I have no moral right to say who should run it.”
“I’m a dual nationality and I pay British taxes, I don’t really care about voting but I really think you should be able to if you wanted to and the postal ballot is a farce as its impossible to do in time. A secure internet vote should be possible.”
“I am glad that I would have the opportunity to vote in UK elections if I choose, because I still care about the country and who will lead it through the difficult economic times.
But like others have said, it is more likely that I will refrain because I question whether I should vote considering I don’t live or pay taxes there.
I did register for the referendum, because it had forever implications and I may go back one day. I don’t think they sent me the papers in time for that either though so I missed it.”
The above doesn’t seem like apathy among British citizens living in Australia and indeed some have good personal reasons for believing they should not have or exercise a right to vote back in the UK. However, if you believe you should be able to vote in the UK as your national right as a British citizen, make sure that you can still vote by registering via the Electoral Commission’s website www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.
We can make sure that the vote of the British citizen living overseas is treated more seriously if we can aim to double the current number registered to vote from 30,000 to 60,000. You can also add your vote here in support of our campaign to remove the 15-year-limit on our voting rights. It would be much appreciated.