British citizens living abroad now have the right to vote in UK elections for life. As result, over three million Britons who have lived abroad for over 15 years may regain the right to vote in what is highly likely to be a general election year.
The change is part of the Election Act 2022, for which secondary legislation has now been completed, and the right of overseas citizens to vote in UK elections for life was made effective from January 16th.
It applies to all those who have previously lived in or been registered to vote in the UK. They can register online and will need to confirm their personal information every three years.
Hugh Elliott, the British Ambassador to Spain, said “This law means that more British citizens living in Spain will now be eligible to vote in UK Parliamentary elections, which is good news. We’re asking the British community here to help us spread the word, because it’s important that eligible people are made aware of the changes so that they can register and cast a ballot when the time comes.”
It only takes five minutes to register, and voting can be done by post or by proxy. Applicants will need to provide details of the address and time they were last registered or resident.
To register, go to www.gov.uk/registertovote
A long time coming
The pledge to abolish the 15-year rule and give ex-pats votes for life was first included in David Cameron’s 2015 Conservative Party manifesto. However, two further elections and a certain referendum would take place before it was enacted.
One of the key supporters of the move was Harry Shindler, a World War II veteran who moved to Italy after helping to liberate it and campaigned for voting rights for over 20 years. Shindler died last February at the age of 101, after seeing the Election Act passed.
Nevertheless, not everyone agrees with the return of voting rights. Labour has stated that ex-pats who have been away for over 15 years have lost contact with their constituencies. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have supported the establishment of overseas constituencies for ex-pat voters.
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