A new voting campaign is about to go live online to attract British expats back into UK politics. After successive disappointing local and national election turn-outs and fearing more coalition governments, the Electoral Commission wants more expats to use their votes. However, they seem to have forgotten most of them left Britain because they didn’t like living here anyway. Around 5 million British expats live overseas, and around 1 million have the vote, but only 20,000 are on the electoral roll. The Electoral Commission wants to up this number and aims to urge expats to vote by sending emails to expats who set up the account in the UK and advertising the right online – especially via British news sites and the BBC. The commission wants to try and muster more support for the polls – and has the next round of European elections in May and the general election in 2015 as targets. Expat voters could qualify to enter the ballot on the yes/no referendum on the European Union promised by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Most of the effort will be directed at Spain and Australia, the two countries with the largest numbers of British expats. Around a million expats live in each country.
Other nations on the hit-list include France, American Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany and the United Arab Emirates.
In 1985, British lawmakers gave the right to vote in national elections to expats who had lived in the country during the previous five years. This was extended to 20 years in 1989 and then down to 15 years from April 1, 2002.