Surely it should be possible to attract at least 100,000 British citizens living abroad to register to vote in good time for the next general election in May 2015? This number of expatriate voters would represent much more than an average-sized UK constituency and increase political pressure for removal of the 15-year-limit on voting from abroad.
From June 2014 there should be three important changes to encourage overseas registering and voting:
- Proof of identity eg via passport or other means will not require further attestation by another British citizen.
- On-line registration for UK residents is planned to be opened up to overseas voters.
- The voting period will be extended to 25 days to allow more time for postal voting, although a proxy vote would remain the most flexible option.
The move from the current householder-based system to Individual Electoral Registration for UK elections is anticipated, however, to lead to certain groups of British citizens – eg students and ethnic minorities in the inner-cities – being under-represented on the final electoral roll, requiring special data-matching efforts between government departments to increase the participation of such groups in the democratic process.
With only a maximum of some 30,000 British overseas voters ever registered out of the estimated 5 – 6 million living abroad, British expatriate citizens stand out as also forming a very important but much under-represented group, which contibutes to British “soft power” worldwide but for which data-matching to identify individual overseas voters is so much more difficult.
As a result of the inherent difficulties arising in actually tracing the expatriate British population due to a relative lack of data eg in Embassies and Consulates compared with other developed countries, together with less attention from local Electoral Registration Officers, it then becomes very much more up to individual British citizens living abroad to proactively make sure that they are registered to vote and not deprived of their democratic rights.
Unless such British citizens are already excluded from registering to vote by the current 15-year-rule limiting their voting rights, it is already possible to proactively register to vote guided by the Electoral Commission website www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.