“With 2,250 votes registered on this site in some 2 years, votes for expats would appear to be a less than burning issue as far as most of us are concerned. Either the majority consider that they have already voted with their feet and there is nothing left to be said or else there is a complacency induced by lack of a prominent focal point and mechanism for action. What a pity.”
The above comment received from a recent visitor to our website blog (which was launched in June 2011), is also reflected in the politically uninspiring statistic that only some 30,000 British citizens resident outside the UK, and still qualified to vote after less than 15 years abroad, are on the electoral register.
Even for general elections when the British population in general is more engaged, the associated marketing programmes of the Electoral Commission have failed to reach out to the vast majority of those still qualified to vote ( a rough estimate of 50% would indicate only a 1% turnout rate) among the estimated 5 – 6 million British citizens resident overseas. A turnout of 10% or 300,000 British voters overseas would more seriously engage the attention of the political class.
Certainly there are some of these British citizens who have already effectively “voted with their feet” and are detached from the UK, this general sense of detachment on the part of these expats further encouraged by electoral law which disenfranchises them after 15 years away.
However, there could also be (as the above comment suggests) “a complacency induced by lack of a prominent focal point and mechanism for action”.
Such a prominent focal point for action is the increasingly likely referendum in the UK on continuing membership of the European Union, within which the British as also EU citizens can currently live, work, travel and study freely across Europe.
With over 1 million British citizens estimated to be resident in France and Spain alone, shouldn’t all British citizens resident within the EU (and not just those living within the UK) be concerned and want to vote in such a referendum on their future?
Those still qualified to vote should make sure to renew their details on the electoral register (the Electoral Commission has a convenient website for this – www.aboutmyvote.co.uk), particularly with the changes to individual voter registration contained within the Electoral Administration & Registration Bill. This bill is currently passing through parliament with the next stage planned to be addressed in the House of Lords Monday the 14th January, 2013. Here an opportunity again exists for Lord Lexden to intercede on behalf of overseas voters:
“I shall indeed be putting the case for the action you and your colleagues have been calling for so determinedly (and justly) on 14 January—the second and final day of the Bill’s Committee stage in the Lords.”
Key milestones to bear in mind when registering to vote (by post or proxy but latter more reliable for overseas voters):
- 2014 for Individual (no longer Householder) Voter Registration
- 2015 General Election (May) & Referendum on EU.
It’s a self-serving, political excuse to disenfranchise fellow British citizens living abroad after 15 years because they should not be able to influence issues where they are no longer physically resident, and should not be concerned after 15 years. It is certainly not valid for a referendum on continuing EU membership for those British citizens living in Continental Europe.
Whether you think you can still vote or not in such a referendum, we would also appreciate you adding your vote here in support of our campaign to remove the 15-year-limit on the voting rights of British citizens living abroad.
This website shares the same communications challenges as the Electoral Commission in reaching out to that silent and hard-to-reach British diaspora of some 5 – 6 million expatriate citizens resident worldwide.