Expat promise of Votes for Life threatened by destroyed data

Published:  3 Aug at 6 PM
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Tagged: UK, England
The destruction of older voting data is proving a serious hurdle in the promised delivery of votes for life to the UK’s expat population.

For two years, the British government has reiterated its promise to give all UK expats living overseas the lifetime right to vote in UK general elections, thus scrapping the contentious 15-year rule. Legislation was promised as a part of the 2015 Queen’s Speech following the general election, but no bill was presented before parliament ended its session in May.

Many are now claiming the Brexit referendum would have had a different result had the promised legislation been brought in, and the measure has been shelved yet again. Even so, ministers are quick to point out they’re still committed to action prior to the 2020 general election.

Worse news has followed with the revelation by a former minister in the Foreign Office that prospective voters would not be able to prove their entitlement due to the scrapping of voting registers from previous years. Critics of the promised legislation are saying that, without proof of former registration, political parties might well allocate large numbers of expat voters to marginal seats crucial to a particular party’s success.

Other so-called problems with delivering the promise to disenfranchised expats include slow postal systems in overseas countries. Electronic voting systems as a solution have been slammed as unsafe by ministers who rejected the idea. Expat voting was introduced in 1985, with only a five-year limit which was increased to 20 years at a later date. Tony Blair’s government reduced the limit to 15 years, shutting out a good number of previously eligible overseas voters.

Commons leader David Lidlington confirmed during a recent Commons question time that voting registers more than15 years old had been destroyed, adding that the task in hand has been made far more complicated as a result. Lidlington feels strongly the manifesto promise should be honoured, thus allowing over a million older Brits living overseas the chance to vote on their futures.
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