Post-Brexit voting confusion

IF you’re a UK citizen and you’re planning to vote in the municipal elections this Sunday, hold on….did you fill in the intention to vote form before 15 January?

Since Britain left the EU, not only have we lost our right to vote in EU elections, but we now also have to actively request to vote every time there is an election. Just as voters in any other third country have always had to, when there is an agreement with their government allowing them to vote.

Previously, while the UK was in Europe, it was enough to simply be registered, or empadronado, and just once tick the box to say you wanted to vote. You then remained on the electoral roll, until you moved and registered somewhere else. And indeed, this is still the case for residents from other EU countries.

However, in the post-Brexit era, UK citizens have to re-register before every election, and not just when we feel like it, but during the time specified by the local council, in this case, during the weeks leading up to 15 January 2023.

I’m sure I’m not the only Brit not to have read the smallprint and been caught out by this change in procedure, having happily exercised my democratic right to vote during nearly 20 years of living in Spain. How many others will see that there are municipal elections this Sunday and confidently pop into their local polling office, only to find themselves missing from the list of voters?

So, why weren’t we informed? Where was the email? Perhaps the British Embassy in Madrid should have paid more attention to making their citizens aware of their impending loss of suffrage and a bit less on videos of the ambassador making marmalade, entertaining though they may be.

Votes for life

On a positive note, however, the 15-year rule is set to be scrapped, giving British citizens living abroad the right to vote in UK elections for life.

According to the official UK government website, the Elections Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022 and it includes provisions to remove the 15-year rule.

Manifesto commitments have been included in each Conservative Party manifesto since 2015 to remove the 15-year limit on overseas voter registration and this time it has finally gone through. This is the so-called ‘votes for life’ policy, although the Labour Party favoured maintaining the 15-year limit.

 It is expected that overseas voters will be eligible to vote in 2024.

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