The historical lack of attention paid by the United Kingdom (UK) to encouraging registration of its overseas voters, is demonstrated by the prevailing 15-year-limit on their voting rights and is also evident when comparing e.g. national rules governing voting from abroad for the citizens of the 28 member states of the European Union (EU).
Of these 28 EU member states, 17 (61%) allow their citizens to vote from abroad in their local embassies, whilst the UK (together with Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovakia) remains part of the minority which doesn’t.
This particular lack of overseas voter support in British Embassies/Consulates, was not mentioned when the Electoral Commission reported to the Parliamentary Parties Panel (PPP) on 20 November, 2013 the results of a consultation into boosting the registration of overseas electors, and to which Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP raised the following Oral Parliamentary Question:
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds):
“What progress has been made by the Electoral Commission on setting a target for increasing the number of eligible overseas voters registering before the next general election?”
Mr Gary Streeter (South West Devon):
“Since May 2013, the Electoral Commission has met representatives from political parties and officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss how they can work together to reach eligible electors overseas to encourage them to register to vote. That has helped to inform the development of the Commission’s extensive public awareness campaign for overseas voters in 2014 ahead of the European parliamentary elections. Finally, the Commission has set a target for its overseas public awareness campaign for the 2014 parliamentary elections to be more than three times as effective as the campaign it ran in 2009.”
“Is my hon. Friend aware that there are estimated to be 3 million Britons living abroad who could potentially vote yet at the 2010 election only 20,000 were registered to vote? Does he not think that that is a shocking statistic and will he encourage the Electoral Commission to set a target to increase that figure to 100,000 by the 2015 election?”
“I certainly agree that it is a shocking figure. Many people are working very hard to try to increase the numbers of British people who are registered to vote. There is a target to increase the number of overseas voters who download the registration form for the 2014 European election to three times the number there were in 2009. If we were to increase the 2010 figure threefold, that would take us to about 100,000 downloads in 2015, which would perhaps be much more beneficial.”
The Electoral Commission website www.aboutmyvote.co.uk is already available to guide eligible British citizens in registering to vote from abroad.
If you find that you cannot register to vote because you are excluded by the 15-year-rule, we would much appreciate you also taking the time to add your vote here in support of our campaign to remove this rather arbitrary and undemocratic limit on our voting rights as British citizens living abroad.