Britons residing abroad for 15 years to get voting rights in UK elections

LONDON, (Parliament Politics Magazine) – After a proposed amendment in the law cleared a vital stage in the House of Lords, British people who have lived abroad for more than 15 years will be able to vote in UK general elections.

The decision puts an end to a 20-year battle waged by Harry Shindler, a 100-year-old man who challenged the 15-year voting age limit at the high court in the year 2016 and the European Court of Justice in the year 2018. It will also follow through on a promise made by the Conservatives in previous election manifestos.

“Three manifestos, and now close to being delivered,” Lord Lexden, who championed the cause, stated. The bill is expected to be signed into law by the time the current session ends.

“I am glad and pleased this is nearly finished,” Shindler, who lives in Rome, said. We are a democracy, but we are not a complete democracy since we lack the right to vote.”

The idea might allow 3 million Britons who are retired or working overseas the opportunity to vote.

For the past 18 years, he has been campaigning for it.  Despite the fact that it must return to the House of Commons, it is now a done deal. This was a historic moment in British history, and Britons all across the world would be rejoicing, Shindler added.

Despite receiving a letter from Boris Johnson last year guaranteeing that the Conservatives will finally follow through on their commitment, he was sceptical that the bill would make it through the legislative process.

After amendments on the topic were debated but withdrawn, the relevant clauses of the elections bill passed the committee stage in the House of Lords. Before returning to the House of Commons for a final vote, the bill will go through the report stage, where it will be scrutinised for any legal flaws.

While Shindler along with the campaigners were ecstatic, others called the bill a “mishmash of rights” and projected more amendments in the next two or three years.

Some peers argued that it wouldn’t be fair to some Britons who have lived abroad for decades to be able to vote in general elections of Britain while many foreign nationals who live and pay taxes in the UK are unable to.

Could the minister explain how it would be seen as fair and a good platform for their election process, Paul Scriven, a Liberal Democrat life peer asked. Even if it didn’t affect them directly, those who haven’t lived in the UK for 50 years would be able to vote and influence government policy.

Also representing the Lib Dems, William Wallace argued the government had not gone far enough to resolve “the tangle of voting rights left by imperial history,” which allowed certain foreign nationals, such as Commonwealth citizens, to vote but not others.

When Meghnad Desai arrived in 1965, he realised he was eligible to vote since Indians had the right “as subjects of the monarch.” However, he stated that it was unclear what gave some people the right to vote while others did not, and questioned if it should be based on a person’s position as a local taxpayer or residency rights. They would have to go with a compromised jumble of rights until the mess was cleared, he said.