Archive for the ‘Voting rights’ Category

EU Referendum Bill: Lord Lexden Supports Amendment to include all UK Citizens in other EU Member States

mardi, novembre 3rd, 2015

This is the speech made by Alistair Lexden in the Lord?s yesterday (2nd November, 2015) afternoon in support of an amendment to the European Referendum Bill seeking to give the right to vote in the referendum to all UK citizens living in other EU member states.

Lord Lexden (Con): My Lords, the noble Lords who have tabled these amendments have performed a most valuable service which has wider international dimensions, as my noble friend Lord Flight and others have pointed out. I have strongly and consistently supported the removal of the arbitrary 15-year limit on the right of our fellow countrymen and women living overseas to vote in our parliamentary elections?a right first conferred by Margaret Thatcher?s Government. I urged its removal in my first speech in this Chamber in early 2011. I tabled amendments to the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill in 2013 in order to press the case for change. I took part in subsequent discussions on overseas voting arrangements in a cross-party group chaired by my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth?a group in which my noble friend Lord Tyler played a conspicuous part.

I was delighted when my party included an unambiguous commitment in its recent general election manifesto to sweep away the iniquitous 15-year bar. Swift implementation of that commitment would have dealt with all the aspects of this issue, both as regards the parliamentary franchise and, as a direct consequence, the forthcoming EU referendum. However, the Bill to give effect to the unambiguous Tory commitment has not even been published. I was greatly taken aback to be told, in answer to an Oral Question in July, that there was no certainty whatever that the Bill would reach the statute book before the referendum took place?and it has become even less certain since then. This is deeply disappointing. Nothing could have been more precisely predictable than the emergence of the huge problem with which we are now confronted if swift and early action was not taken.

It is extremely unfortunate, to put it mildly, that work was not set in hand at the earliest opportunity. The Tory pledge was made in September last year. A branch of the Conservative Party?s organisation with which I am closely connected, Conservatives Abroad, has two outstanding experts on all the issues involved in extending the right to vote to all British citizens living overseas. They could have helped prepare the way for the Bill, which, if it were now before Parliament, would have prevented the wholly foreseeable problem that the amendments seek to address; unresolved, it will inflict great injustice on a significant number of our fellow countrymen and countrywomen overseas.

It simply cannot be right to hold a referendum in which some British citizens living in another EU member state or elsewhere in the world are able to take part, while others are excluded because they happen to have been absent from our shores for more than 15 years. The outcome within the EU will affect them all equally and profoundly. It will surely be incomprehensible to our fellow citizens living abroad that an election manifesto commitment cannot be implemented by one means or another in time for them to participate in a vote of such overwhelming importance for the nation to which they belong.

We need to imagine ourselves in the shoes of Harry Shindler, to whom the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, paid tribute, and our other fellow countrymen and countrywomen who have been living overseas for over 15 years and have retained a strong sense of British identity. How would we feel about being excluded from this momentous referendum while those who have not reached the 15-year limit can take part? The Bill should be returned to the other place and amended in order to include British citizens who have been living overseas for more than 15 years. In that way, we would uphold the principle enshrined in the Conservative election manifesto.

UK drive to recruit 100,000 expat voters – The Telegraph

samedi, février 28th, 2015

The Electoral Commission has set itself a tough pre-election target, but disillusioned expats are unlikely to bite, according to campaigners in this Telegraph article of 3 February, 2015.

Shouldn’t campaigners feel more confident given the support by the Conservative party headed by the Prime Minister below?

« Mr Cameron sent a mass email to expats on the party mailing list, telling them they could hold the key to the Conservatives winning the next election. The party has pledged to restore voting rights to all Britons overseas if it wins. Currently expats lose their right to vote once they have been out of the country for 15 years. »

Future e-voting in the UK?

jeudi, janvier 1st, 2015

The article below by Leala Padmanabhan on the BBC News Politics website, questions whether e-voting is on its way in the UK:

« Another argument in favour stems from voter disengagement and low turnout in many democracies around the world, including the UK, where nearly 16 million people did not vote at the last election. E-voting encourages participation, say campaigners, especially among young people.
« There’s a fantastic head of steam now behind this issue, » says Graham Allen, the Labour MP who chairs the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.
In a report on voter engagement published last month , the committee recommended that the government should run online voting pilots in the next parliament « with a view to all electors having the choice of voting online at the 2020 general election ».

« I couldn’t have got my committee to agree to recommend online voting a year ago but people realise our democracy is broken and we have to find radical ways to fix it, » Mr Allen said. »

With up to three million young people not having decided how to vote in next year’s general election, according to a think tank, the Conservative party as a first step needs to use the internet and social media more effectively.

British Citizen Living Abroad? Here’s a voting message from the Prime Minister.

mercredi, décembre 24th, 2014

Here’s a message from Prime Minister David Cameron:

Who do you know who lives abroad?

Of the 5 million British people living abroad, virtually none are registered to vote – even though it now only takes a few minutes to do so. Encourage your friends to register – « share » this post or send them this link:

British Citizens Abroad – Register to Vote!

vendredi, mars 14th, 2014

Here is an important message for all British citizens resident abroad and not impacted by the 15-year-limit on their voting rights, from Greg Clark, Minister of State for Cities and the Constitution:

Register as an overseas voter!

This is important for both the European elections in 2014 (if you have not already registered where you are resident) and the next general election in 2015.

How to Register to Vote in UK Elections

vendredi, janvier 10th, 2014

As we continue our struggle for unrestricted voting rights for all British expats, it is very important to get all those who are not affected by the arbitrary cut-off rule (currently 15 years), to register. If you have not lived outside the UK for 15 years or more we would urge you, and any of your colleagues and friends who are similarly qualified, to register!

Since British expats living in EU Member States may choose to vote in the European Parliament elections in the UK, instead of in their country of residence, it is worth registering as soon as possible, and at any rate before the European Parliament election registration deadline of 7th May 2014.

This is what you should do. You will need the postcode of your last address in the UK, and your current passport number and its place and date of issue.

Go to the Electoral Commission website and enter the postcode of your last address in the UK at which you were previously registered to vote. Click on GO in the green bar.

The next screen enables you to download the form, and tells you where to send it once you have printed it out, and completed and signed it.

If this is the first time that you have registered as an overseas (as opposed to UK-based) voter, you will need another British citizen to countersign the form as witness. The countersignatory must also provide his/her passport number and place and date of issue.

The form also enables you to register for a postal vote, or a proxy vote. We can provide help in both those areas, and with any queries connected with the registration process in general.

We hope this has been useful to you, and that you will take the important step of registering as soon as possible! Do feel free to forward this web page link to others who might be able to take advantage of it.

British Citizenship and Right to Vote

lundi, septembre 9th, 2013

The lack of a clear connection in law between British citizenship and the right to vote has permitted successive British governments to allow the following injustice.

Fellow but expatriate British citizens are rather arbitrarily in law deprived of their right to vote in UK elections after 15 years abroad but an estimated 1 million non-British citizens from 54 Commonwealth countries currently resident in the UK will be entitled to vote in , and possibly influence, the 2015 general election.

According to the press article referenced below, in 2007 the then Labour government ordered a review of British citizenship laws by Lord Goldsmith QC, the Attorney General, but did not act on his advice that it should make a ?clear connection between citizenship and the right to vote?. MigrationWatch, which campaigns for lower immigration, is also quoted in this article as suggesting that Labour refused to act because voters from black and minority ethnic communities were more likely to vote Labour than Liberal Democrat or Conservative.

Shouldn’t the Conservative party be pressing for a clearer connection in law between British citizenship and the right to vote in UK elections as part of its overall immigration policy?

Reference: Commonwealth citizens ‘should lose the right to vote’, The Times, 28th August, 2013

Chasing the Wrong Target – by Michael Webster

mardi, août 20th, 2013

Considerable efforts have been devoted in recent years to obtain the right to vote for those who have been expatriates for more than 15 years, although most of these may be thought to have lost their links with any constituency back home and the ability to choose between the candidates for election there.

A far more important problem is this. There are estimated to be about 5 – 6 million British citizens living abroad, of whom 1.5 million or 30% are not eligible to vote. Let us suppose that half a million are underage, leaving 1 million deprived by the 15-year-ruling.

According to a recent Parliamentary Commission, of the 3.5 million entitled to vote only 20,000, yes 20,000 , are registered to vote. Surely this is the real problem. How to get those who have already the right to do so to exercise that right rather than seek it for those who have been expatriates for countless years.

Michael Webster

The Wrong Battle by Michael Webster

jeudi, décembre 27th, 2012

Leading figures in the British community in France and in our own British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP) are struggling, to little effect, to obtain voting rights for citizens living abroad but this is of minor importance compared with another struggle which may confront them.

The efforts to gain voting rights are for those who have lived abroad for more than 15 years: not the right to vote for MPs who would defend the rights of expatriates, a privilege which French citizens abroad enjoy, but a vote in whatever constituency with which they may feel an affinity, even though they may not know the MP’s name or the major concerns of his constituents.

No, I write of another threatened struggle. A year ago I was treating threats of Britain voting to leave the European Union as a diverting quirk, typical of my countrymen. Now it is dawning on me that the threat is becoming a real one. The Economist this week also turns its attention to the matter, devoting its cover and two principal articles to the subject.

Both in the populace and in political circles it is taking on an immediacy which should give us serious concern. Apart from all the diplomatic, political, economic and trade issues at stake and whatever your views on them, Britain’s leaving the EU might have considerable repercussions on British citizens living on the Continent. Without being any sort of authority on the subject, I would wager that there would be increased financial difficulties and bureaucratic problems ten years down the road regarding ?cartes de sejours?, importing of household goods, health insurance, pensions etc., all of which would have to be re-negotiated.

I will not expatiate here on the advantages and disadvantages it would have for Britain. The Economist says our departure from Europe is becoming ?ever more possible?. Despite the fact that the leaders of the three main political parties, business leaders and the trade unions all want to stay in, 80 M.P.s of our Conservative party are pressing for a referendum and the polls say that over 50% of the population would vote in favour of leaving and only 30% would vote for staying.

So, I believe this to be more of an issue (than voting rights) on which we should be considering with great concern.

Low Turnouts & Social Media

samedi, août 25th, 2012

Why at a time of increasing disengagement from the political process in a democratic society, are British citizens in general not more actively encouraged, or indeed inspired in the case of the younger generation, to vote?
The latest example of likely low turnout from the effect of a lack of engagement with the British electorate, would seem to concern the new elections planned in November for Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and for which the Electoral Reform Society is currently projecting a turnout of less than 20%.This would be even less than the poor turnout of 31% for the local elections in May, which itself was down from the 35% turnout in 2008 (see Electoral Commission report – 2012-english-locals-election-report-web).
The PCC election process, therefore, does not currently present a good example of local democracy in action unless actual voter turnout levels on the day prove otherwise. As for the May 2012 local government elections, however, should turnout again be poor the local electorate will still live with the ?democratic? outcome; they will keep their democratic right to choose to vote or not, irrespective of turnout levels.
This does not mean that low turnouts are acceptable in a democratic society and the question is how to improve matters and particularly for the younger generation? Social media springs to mind where 18 – 24 year olds are concerned and it has already been noted that twice as many of this generation have subscribed to Facebook as have registered to vote. It is interesting then to compare differing articles on Why social media will solve the problem of local voter apathy countered by why Social media cannot solve the problem of local disengagement.