UK PM May pledges to overturn British expat voting rule

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Hundreds of thousands of expats will win the right to vote in UK elections after Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to change the law that currently bars individuals from taking part if they have spent more than 15 years living outside the UK.

Prime Minister Theresa May (pictured) has confirmed via her advisers that she will change the law in time for the expected 2020 poll after a long campaign from groups and individuals demanding change.

Potentially hundreds of thousands of expats were stopped from voting in the Brexit referendum and the last general election. Former Prime Minister David Cameron had promised to bring the measure in during this Parliament as part of his general election manifesto.

Brexit votes denied

However he refused to pass the legislation before the Brexit vote leading to a legal challenge by expats, as reported, that went to the Supreme Court, losing at every stage.

The UK Electoral Commission estimates that 5.5 million Brits live overseas but it only had 106,000 on voting lists for the 2015 general election – the highest number ever recorded.

The then UK Prime Minister Cameron originally pledged to extend voting rights to expats who have lived abroad for more than 15 years after a World War Two veteran lobbied parliament.

Harry Shindler, 95, received a letter from Downing Street assuring him all Brits living outside the UK will be able to vote in elections by 2020, as ‘set out in a government manifesto in 2015’. According to a votes for expats action group Schindler now also has a letter from May confirming the change.

Alex Robertson, director of communications at the UK Electoral Commission, called for more expats to register their right to vote.

“A lot of people aren’t aware that it’s possible to register as an overseas voter for certain UK polls – UK parliamentary general elections, European parliamentary elections,” he said. “Many people are eligible to vote and now it’s easier than ever to take the first step by going online.”

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