The British government has announced it will move to scrap rules that prevent British citizens from voting in General Elections if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years.
The move was first announced in the Queen’s Speech earlier this month, but this week Downing Street announced new details of its plans. The changes form part of the so-called ‘Elections Bill,’ which the government is seeking to pass into law.
The Conservative government argues that changes will “empower more British citizens living overseas to participate in our democracy,” while making it “easier for overseas electors to remain registered to vote for longer.”
According to a statement, the government believes that “decisions made in the UK Parliament on foreign policy, defence, immigration, pensions and trade deals affect British citizens who live overseas. It is therefore right that they have a say in UK Parliamentary General Elections.”
Should the changes be introduced, all British citizens living overseas who have been previously registered or previously resident in the United Kingdom will be able to cast votes in elections. Overseas electors will also have their registration extended, including absent voting arrangements, meaning they can renew their details every three years, instead of annually.
Electors will be able to reapply for a postal vote or refresh their proxy vote at the same time as renewing their voter registration, streamlining the process.
“In an increasingly global and connected world, most British citizens living overseas retain deep ties to the United Kingdom. Many still have family here, have a history of hard work in the UK behind them, and some have even fought for our country,” said Minister of State for the Cabinet Office, Lord True.
“These measures support our vision for a truly Global Britain, opening up our democracy to British citizens living overseas who deserve to have their voices heard in our Parliament, no matter where they choose to live.”
The bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament this year.