UK government to propose expat voting rights

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LEADING REFORMER: Constitution Minister Chloe Smith backs the changes ©parliament.uk

MPs in Westminster will today debate the Overseas Electors Bill, introduced by Conservative Glyn Davies MP.

Current law bars British expats from voting in UK elections once they have lived abroad for 15 years.

The Bill would remove this time limit and give an estimated three million overseas electors the right to vote.

Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith, said:

“At the moment, British citizens who live overseas find themselves abruptly disenfranchised after they have lived abroad for 15 years, even when they feel closely connected to our country and want to take part in elections that can affect them like any other citizen.

“These are our fellow citizens and they have every right to be involved in our country and its choice of government.”

The government is hoping for cross-party support for the Bill, which is based a pledge in its manifesto to grant “Votes for Life” (VFL) to expats.

The introduction of online registration in 2014 made the process much easier and triggered a significant increase in participation from those overseas.

Since then, British expats have voted in increasing numbers and figures from June 2017 showed that the highest ever total had registered to vote.

As well as removing the time limit, the government intends to enfranchise any overseas electors who were previously resident or registered to vote in the UK.

Mrs Smith added: “Decisions taken by the UK government still affect expats, such as pensions policy or foreign affairs choices.

“Expats retain strong links with the UK, they may have family here and indeed may plan to return here in the future.”

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