Enhancing electoral engagement by British expatriates

Lord Norton

There are estimated to be more than 5 million British nationals living abroad, with about 3 million of these being entitled to be on the electoral register in the UK.  At the end of 2011, fewer than 30,000 were registered.  The extent of non-registration came up in debate in the last session of Parliament and last year a small cross-party group of parliamentarians came together to examine what could be done to encourage more expatriates to register.  I chaired the group and the membership included another contributor to Lords of the Blog, Lord Tyler.  We held regular meetings, took oral and written evidence from a range of witnesses, including ministers and British expatriates.  Our labours resulted in a report, Making Votes Count: enhancing engagement in the electoral process by British expatriates, which we published last Wednesday.  You can find a copy here.  We plan to pursue the issue in the next session, pressing Government to act on our recommendations.

13 comments for “Enhancing electoral engagement by British expatriates

  1. 22/03/2014 at 8:01 pm

    I have always felt slightly unhappy that people who have chosen to live abroad should still be able to help choose the government that the rest of us have to live under – it’s bad enough some of the people in that situation who comment on here, which is trivial in comparison. However, I have taken note of the arguments you give in the introduction of your report.

    As you also point out, it’s difficult to identify potential overseas voters, so I expect it’s also difficult to carry out a survey of why such people do not register to vote. Such a survey could be revealing. Could it be that ex-pats themselves do not feel that they should be voting in UK elections? Either they think it’s wrong as a matter of principle, or they are simply disinterested.

    If ex-pats feel strongly enough about voting, they will do so. Perhaps we should first tackle the problems of low voter turnout and participation in the political process by UK residents?

    • Rhoderick Gates
      01/04/2014 at 2:46 pm

      The requirements of registering as an overseas voter are absurd. If I’m already a registered voter, but move overseas, why should I have to re-register? And for UK citizens born outside the UK, they can’t complete the form because they haven’t had a ‘previous UK address’, etc.

      And even if you do, you lose your vote over time.

  2. Honoris Causa
    24/03/2014 at 9:07 am

    It would get more like the Vatican city every day.

    My brother, a US ctiizen for the last 20 years, with dual nationality, and a resident of the USA ,for the last 53,therefore has a right to vote in UK elections about matters with which he has not been involved for the last 53 years.

    Extraordinary wisdom.

    I know! Anybody who speaks English and is a communicant member of the various affliated Churches to the CofE worldwide should be allowed to vote in UK general elections!

    Whitehall bureaucrats issued British passports to 1/4 of the world’s population in the 1930s.
    Fortunately not all of them came before they saw the error of their ways.

    Let’s be a bit more modest and just have elections to ourselves on local UK matters.

    • Frazer Goodwin
      24/03/2014 at 1:06 pm

      If any person has resided outside the UK for longer than 15 years they have no right to vote in UK elections. Given that I’ve lived in Belgium since 1991 this mean I have no vote whatsoever in National elections either in the UK or here in Belgium. Your dual nationality brother has no vote in UK elections.

      • Honoris Causa
        24/03/2014 at 2:55 pm

        A good many people reside here for a few months (possibly to maintain a pension right of some sort), and then hot foot back to their country of choice.

        When the committee was meeting there was every impression that they considered e-democracy as an after thought, that the purpose of postal voting, and including the non voting 15 year(or more) diaspora, was some kind
        of rearguard action to save us from the multitude of sins which electronic democracy would bring with it.

        If you live here, vote electronically.
        If you dont, dont get a vote at all.

        All this hard copy nonsense is just the nonsense of the democratic re-actionary.

  3. GareThugHowell
    24/03/2014 at 10:32 am

    I can understand why a re-actionary in politics would want to avoid the question of e-voting and e-democracy in an electronic age by fishing the red herring of
    hard copy electoral registers. GET REAL!

    Who can register to vote?
    You can register to vote if you are:
    17 or over (but you cannot vote until you are 18)
    A UK, Republic of Ireland or qualifying Commonwealth citizen. Qualifying Commonwealth citizens are those who have leave to enter or remain in the UK, or do not require such leave.
    A citizen of a European Union country living in the UK
    A citizen of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or a British Overseas Territory living in the UK

    BUT also this from the very serious document of the committee:

    The Act provided that British citizens living outside the United kingdom’s borders could register to vote in the constituency in which they were most recently registered!!!

    I think that is the funniest piece of reactionary politics that I have seen in a very long time.

    Try a little bit of e-democracy for everybody and when you have done that only then consider the “religious” diaspora of the UK. I very nearly wrote Diasporrhoea; that is what the Lord Norton’s opinions, and his committee’s opinions, on the matter are worth.

    Dr Williamson (LSE) knows a little about Electronic democracy. He steers well clear of any such idiotic talk.

    Roll on the new Vatican city! There is a Green Hill!!!!!!!!!Ha!Ha!Ha!

  4. GareThugHowell
    24/03/2014 at 10:48 am

    Page 15 para 2 of your report.

    Anything been done? Noooooooooh! It’s not convenient.
    Can’t be bothered. Not interested in anything but lip service to Democracy, whilst nearly every person in the country now has access to secure electronic services entirely suitable for voting purposes. At the flick of a dozen or 20 digits.

  5. maude elwes
    24/03/2014 at 12:34 pm

    What an extraordinary insult this is to the people who live in this country, cannot escape it and have to keep it going financially. First, to have unlimited immigration and naturalization for people from the rest of the planet who have little in common with the people or culture of the UK, then find they are able to vote in our elections. Fraudulently too we are learning. A vote here should serve only those who live and work here permanently, paying their taxes and contributing to the treasury in one way or another, and having done so after residence of at least five years from those who enter as adults. Now, we are being pummeled additionally with the notion of this ex-pat pretense on the hope any government will no longer look so ridiculous in a so called democracy ruling from such a pitifully low turn out. Or, maybe because the elite are wanting to increase the vote for the Tories. As, most of those who decide to leave this country to live elsewhere and join allegiance to another country are Conservative voters.

    Of course it could be far more sinister than that, it being the potential removal of all boundaries by the financial institutions push to force Globalization down our throats and our collective governments terrified to address those big and bad boys as it may damage their position somehow. Anyone outside our living space or sphere could and would vote for any crazy policy including war, thermonuclear or otherwise, as they will have no fallout (no pun intended) from the results of their choices.

    Here is an interesting question, which country has the biggest UK expats in its midst? Well English speaking of course, Brits not being too happy with learning another language. So, it would have to be Australia, the US, Canada New Zealand and Ireland. And how many would there be in total, I would take a guess of at least 5m. Now that would be of enormous significance to the people who live and work here. it could change the entire spectre of what they have to live under and endure at any given time. How utterly preposterous. Is the government think tank going to expect these non domiciles to pay full taxes, face conscription should it return if we go to war and any other burden the Brits have to carry routinely? No, of course not.

    And whilst I think on it, how many Commonwealth countries remain with a right to vote in our elections? Can anyone enlighten us?

    Now this subject is a very good example of why we need ‘Direct Democracy’ in the form of referendum in this country and fast.

    The real issue at the back of this though is always finance and the big money pretenders. What’s in it for them. Lets see.

    Would this idea have sprung from Reform Party Policies? The one that was set up by two Tories and backed by the money from Serco, Sodexo, Accentive, city of London BMI private medical, Novo, Nordisk Priivate Medical, to name but a few, who all get Reform contracts. And aren’t they the ones that also have input on our welfare state policies? Of course in the main all being US based companies of one kind or another.

    • Rhoderick Gates
      01/04/2014 at 2:58 pm

      People can live outside the UK and be affected by decisions made for domestic or foreign policies.

      In a way everyone ought to have a right to vote in USA elections, because virtually every aspect of US foreign policy affects the rest of the world because the USA is a hyper-dominant world power.

  6. tizres
    24/03/2014 at 9:30 pm

    Lord Norton, my husband read this post, and then the comments. He looked at me questioningly, somewhat stumped. Then we had dinner.

    Thank you for the elegant report, you captured the arguments brilliantly. If a debate emerges, I may well add a few words.

    • Lord Norton
      03/04/2014 at 4:01 pm

      tizres: Many thanks. Much appreciated. I can appreciate your husband’s bemusement.

  7. Gareth Howell
    25/03/2014 at 8:59 am

    “so ridiculous in a so called democracy ruling from such a pitifully low turn out. Or, maybe because the elite are wanting to increase the vote for the Tories.”

    There is turn out theory in there somewhere!

    Maude enquires about country of residence of ex-pats as they are hideously called. The answer may be closer at hand for voter turn out and being qualified to go on voting, and that is
    Spain; several million who come and go with some frequency.

    The pretence of democracy is to do with online voting which was only added as an afterthought at the committee deliberations, although they will probably deny it! This postal voting is a deliberate and caluclated obfuscation of the potential for effective democratic voting procedures.

    Mr Bercow , Speaker, does have a committee for the purpose of investigating e-democracy, but the last time I looked, Dr Williamson,( and member of Hansard society) a world authority on the subject, had not joined it, so it may not be of that much value.

    [Hansard society has no connection whatever with Hansard reporters which is a govt organisation. The idea that Hansard soc is non partisan is false, since it wants to strengthen parliaments, (in its own words) and there may well be a good many people who want to weaken them, there being always a contretemps of ‘prerogative’ between monarchies and parliaments, ones always wanting to strengthen themselves at the expense of the others]

    • Hansard Society
      Hansard Society
      25/03/2014 at 12:56 pm

      FYI – Dr Williamson left the Hansard Society a number of years ago now. You can follow his adventures in e-democracy here – http://www.andywilliamson.com/

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