With falling voter turnout such a cause for concern in the UK (only 31% in the 2013 local elections and 65.1% in the 2010 general election, the latter compared with +75% in 1964), why does the political establishment continue to maintain a voting ban on British expatriates after 15 years abroad?
“which explores the reasons behind the precipitous drop in voter turnout – particularly among under-30s – finds that it is anger with the political class and broken promises made by high-profile figures that most rile voters, rather than boredom with Westminster.”
Interestingly, although the political parties have various plans to make voting more accessible and convenient (i.e. “the mechanics of democracy”) – currently a major and off-putting bureaucratic obstacle for would-be expatriate voters in general – this seems a virtual irrelevance for resident British citizens:
“Only 2% of the electorate regard the inconvenience of registering and then casting a vote as a reason not to do so, suggesting that proposed measures such as weekend or electronic voting are unlikely to make a big difference to election turnout.”
Similarly, a Labour policy for the voting age to be lowered to 16 is unlikely to increase turnout rates, given that at the 2010 general election only 46% of those aged 18 – 24 voted compared with 76% of over-65s.
Yet, if it is recognized that 16 – and 17 -year-old citizens deserve the full right to vote, why not also more mature British expatriates even after 15 years abroad? It is estimated that currently some 10% of the British adult population does not register to vote although this is a legal obligation. This estimate is also unlikely to include the unknown number of those still eligible to vote out of the estimated 5 – 6 million British citizens resident abroad, many resident in the European Union who will not even be able to vote in a referendum on the UK’s continuing membership.