The British government has announced plans to scrap a rule which bans its overseas citizens from voting in general elections once they have lived abroad or 15 years or more.
The move, which has been welcomed by campaigners, could add around 1.5m extra votes to the results of general elections. Former prime minister David Cameron resisted effort to include these expats at the ballot box. If votes of overseas citizens had been included, the outcome of the referendum on EU membership could have looked very different.
Roger Casale, the founder of citizens’ rights group New Europeans, said, “This is great news. The goal of abolishing the 15-year rule does at last seem to be in sight. I am happy above all for all Britons abroad who do not want to lose their democratic voice and the right to vote.”
Only half the battle
Casale said, “Abolishing the 15-year rule will be only half the battle of course as there is still a huge job to be done to persuade even eligible electors abroad to register to vote.
“In 2014, New Europeans exposed massive shortcomings in terms of the efforts of electoral registration officers and the electoral commission in promoting voter registration of overseas voters.
“Since this time, registration has improved from its baseline in 2014 of 0.25%. However, it is still only at two per cent of those eligible to vote.”