Elections Act, 2022 restores voting rights to millions of British expatriates

Elections Act 2022

London: A new law that came into effect on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, has restored the voting rights of more than 30 lakh British citizens living abroad, including those of Indian origin. The Elections Act, 2022 abolishes the previous rule that barred British expatriates from voting in the UK’s general elections and referendums if they had been living outside the country for more than 15 years. This is the biggest expansion of the UK’s electorate since the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act, 1928, which granted equal voting rights to women.

How to register and vote online

The new law enables British citizens around the world to register to vote online, regardless of how long they have been away from the UK. The online registration process is simple and takes only a few minutes. To register, one needs to provide their name, date of birth, national insurance number, and the address where they were last registered to vote in the UK. Once registered, their name will be added to the electoral roll for three years, after which they will need to renew their registration.

Registered voters can also apply online for a postal or proxy vote, depending on their preference and convenience. A postal vote allows them to receive and return their ballot paper by mail, while a proxy vote allows them to appoint someone else to vote on their behalf at their UK polling station. Both options require voters to fill out an application form and provide a valid reason for choosing them.

The end of a long campaign

The enactment of the Elections Act, 2022 marks the culmination of a long campaign by ‘Conservatives Abroad’, a global network of members and supporters of the UK’s Conservative Party living overseas. The campaign, dubbed ‘Votes for Life’, aimed to end the disenfranchisement of British expatriates and give them a voice in the UK’s political affairs. The campaign was supported by several prominent British politicians, celebrities, and activists, who argued that British citizens living abroad should have the same rights and responsibilities as those living in the UK.

Elections Act 2022

British Minister Michael Gove, who played a key role in drafting and passing the new law, hailed it as a historic achievement for democracy and human rights. He said, “From today, millions of British citizens around the world can exercise their franchise in future general elections and express their opinion on the governance of the country. Once again it has been shown that our party is pro-democracy and protects the right of every person to vote.”