Millions of expatriate Britons regain voting rights

Votes for UK expats

Votes for expats. Credit: create jobs 51/

In a historic move, an estimated 3.4 million British citizens residing abroad can reclaim their voting rights in British General Elections and referendums.

This monumental change comes following the enactment of the Elections Act 2022, marking the most significant expansion of the British electoral franchise since granting full suffrage to women in 1928.

Goodbye to the 15-year limit

As of Tuesday, January 16, 2024, the arbitrary 15-year voting limit has been abolished. Now, British citizens around the world can register to vote online, regardless of their duration overseas.

The UK Government website will be updated allowing for overseas voter registration using the new unrestricted rules. This registration will be tied to their last UK address, whether it was their voting registration or residence.

At the same time, the Electoral Commission will launch an extensive advertising campaign called ‘All Abroad!’ to encourage Britons based overseas to register to vote.

Extended electoral participation

Upon registration, expatriate voters will remain on the electoral roll for up to 3 years, ensuring they have ample opportunities to cast their ballots.

Additionally, registered electors will have the option to apply online for either a postal or proxy vote, further enhancing their participation in the democratic process.

This historic moment is the culmination of the ‘Votes for Life’ campaign, championed by Conservatives Abroad, the global network of members and supporters of the British Conservative Party living overseas. ‘Votes for Life’ had long been a commitment within the Conservative Manifesto.

Defying opposition

Notably, today’s enactment comes despite opposition from the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. Labour was responsible for introducing the 15-year rule in 2001, which curtailed democratic freedoms.

The Liberal Democrats, during their coalition with the Conservatives from 2010 to 2015, also impeded efforts to reverse this rule.

Political reactions

Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP, expressed his enthusiasm.

‘From today, millions of British nationals across the world can exercise their right to vote in future General Elections and have their say in the way their country should be governed.’

Gove added: ‘The Conservatives have once again shown that we are the party for democracy and protecting an individual’s right to vote.’

Richard Holden MP, Conservative Party Chairman, applauded the years of dedication from party members.

‘After years of hard work from Conservatives Abroad and our party members we have finally seen the biggest expansion of our democratic franchise in almost a century, despite persistent opposition from Labour and Liberal Democrats.’

‘I look forward to reaching out and connecting with our overseas voters in the months ahead.’

Heather Harper MBE, Chairman of Conservatives Abroad, led the campaign to restore the franchise. She noted, ‘Millions of people living abroad, both working and retired, have been prevented from exercising their democratic right to vote.

‘This new measure puts Britain back on a par with democracies such as the USA, France, Italy, and New Zealand in recognising the importance of their citizens worldwide.’

The restoration of voting rights for millions of British citizens living abroad marks a pivotal moment in British democracy.

The ‘Votes for Life’ campaign’s success ensures that expatriates can actively participate in shaping the future of their homeland, irrespective of their time spent overseas.

It marks a substantial leap forward in embracing the global community of British citizens and their voices in the democratic process.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.


    • Robert Faraday

      16 January 2024 • 12:22

      Excellent news, but a shame that Expat Pensioners continue to be discriminated against regarding other Pensioner Benefits such as Pension Credit, PIP and Winter Fuel Payment.

      • Ramon Osborne

        16 January 2024 • 16:40

        No surprise as most expats sunning it on the golf courses will vote conservative .

    • Mac

      17 January 2024 • 05:47

      This is totally wrong, no person living permanently outside the UK should have voting rights, they have chosen to leave the UK then so be it. You can put your money on it that Brexit would not have happened if the Brits living in Europe had the vote because like Turkeys voting for Christmas these people will have put their own selfish needs first. I guess the Tory party is so desperate for votes they will try anything but it would not surprise me if the new Labour government overturns this absolute nonsense, you should be only allowed to vote if you are a legal resident of the UK ONLY

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