Voting Rights: Update at the end of Phase 1
Please read the project outline for the project outline, team, financials and work phases.
WHY DOES THIS PROJECT MATTER?
“I was denied a vote in the most important referendum that has been held during
my lifetime. My rights were taken away without my consent nor my wishes.”
“The UK MUST introduce the vote for life. I can't even begin to feel at
home again there until it is done.”
These are just two of the quotes from a recent survey of UK citizens abroad about voting by Professor Tanja Bueltmann at Strathclyde University, which show just how strongly British people abroad feel about being disenfranchised. It has been a long struggle to go from no vote at all up until 1985 to the point where finally all British citizens will have their say in the UK – and have their say for life. British citizens abroad have been increasingly vocal about being shut out of the political process in the last years and used other means to make their voices heard. Now over 3 million people stand to be re-enfranchised by the Elections Act 2022 and finally will be able to make themselves heard at the ballot box. This is a turning point for democracy in the UK.
But first the Elections Act needs to be implemented so that these new voters can start registering to vote in time for the next election. There are important changes to the conditions and the processes for voting, and these have to be put in place before registration can start. There are also improvements that need to be made to the processes to deal with the problems overseas voters have faced in the past. That is why British in Europe applied for and secured a 12-month grant from 1 November 2022 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust to lobby on the detailed implementing legislation needed. Our goal: You are able to register your new lifelong right to vote by the next election – and the systems work so your voice will finally be heard.
We started work on 1 November 2022. The project has been divided into 3 work phases. Phase 1 ran until 15 Jan 2023. It had 4 key aims:
- To map the stakeholders and organisations that need to be influenced.
- To research and plan how to influence the secondary legislation process and prepare the core arguments.
- To start work on a survey to reach out to UK citizens abroad.
- To set up the initial meetings with key stakeholders/organisations to introduce the project and discuss our core arguments.
We are delighted to report that all 4 steps have been completed, on time.
Of particular note, Jane and Fiona had initial meetings with the following stakeholders, some of which were held in person during the first advocacy trip to London on 12-13 Dec 2022:
|12 December 2022||The Levelling Up Department team responsible for the secondary legislation|
|The FCDO Citizens’ rights team as the FCDO and Embassy posts will likely play a key role in awareness|
|Hilary Benn, Vice Chair of the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Council and former Exiting the EU/Future of the Relationship with the EU Committee Chair|
|Our legal contacts in the UK parliament|
|13 December 2022||Meeting with Unlock Democracy to introduce the project as they are working on various democracy projects, as well as partnering on the overseas constituencies project.|
|20 December 2022||The Electoral Commission, primarily to discuss the secondary legislation but also raising awareness with overseas voters.|
In addition, we have presented the project to the network of national groups originally set up under BiE, the Grassroots for Europe Roundtable in December, and have been reaching out to the major political parties. We have also discussed the project with other groups with a keen interest in this topic including the3million, Brexpats in Spain, and Reunite Families.
Phase 2 began the week of 16 January starting with the testing of the survey.
The survey’s aim is to gather information from UK citizens living around the world that can be used to support the advocacy on the voting rights project. In particular, information is needed on how easy it will be for UK citizens overseas to identify themselves when registering online and then to provide proof that they have previously been resident in the UK and/or registered on the electoral roll. For people who can still vote and are on the roll this is less of an issue. Stakeholders whom we met before Christmas are very interested in the results of the survey.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
1) Please donate to cover travel costs excluded from the grant, additional communication requirements, and to increase the number of advocacy days we can fund. The more we can fund, the more we can do.
2) Watch out for the release of the survey on the BiE website and through our social media channels. Please disseminate far and wide.
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