Calling British Expats – The UK Wants Your Vote

By Editorial 08 April, 2014

UK politicians have called for the introduction of an overseas electronic voting system to encourage UK expats to participate in British elections.

The plans proposed by a group of British members of parliament from different political parties are aimed at simplifying voting for persons not in the UK.

The group, led by Lord Norton of Louth and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, has produced a report, entitled Making Votes Count, which points out that just 23,366 expats were registered to vote in December 2011. There are thought to be 5.6 million British expats, and about 3 million are eligible to vote. Currently, expat voters have to be at least 18 years old, and must not have lived abroad for more than 15 years.

The authors recommend that an electronic voting pilot could be launched in areas with the highest concentrations of expatriates, such as Melbourne and Malaga. They said that the move would be "a signal of the extent to which the Government takes seriously the rights of UK nationals" living and working abroad. They note that a new change already being implemented allows overseas citizens to download their voting registration form. They argue that the next step would be to create downloadable ballot papers, next followed by electronic voting.

The report also recommends that greater efforts should be made to inform expats about eligibility, and to encourage them to vote. It recommends that information should be disseminated through social media as well as in media that target expats. It says that official bodies, which provide services to expats, such as the Passport Office, HM Revenue & Customs, and the Department of Work & Pensions, could share data with election administrators or – if privacy rules do not permit this – have these agencies directly inform expats of their voting rights.

Also, it recommends that a ministerial position be created with specific responsibility for overseas British nationals, to ensure greater co-ordination. The Electoral Commission should actively seek to secure votes from at least 100,000 overseas persons.

The report argues that UK expats are an asset, and that it is unfair to assume that those living abroad have little interest in UK affairs.

Tags: Individuals | Expatriates | Retirement | United Kingdom | Services | Expat Services | Expats | Pensions | Work | Pensions |


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