This letter was published in the Independent today following an article yesterday claiming that voting by British citizens abroad could determine election result.
Don’t rely on the expat vote
About 18 months before every general election, parties announce they are going to get out the vote from the 5.5 million voting-age citizens known to be living abroad (report, 23 August). Labour sent Glenda Jackson to patrol the beaches of Spain ahead of the 1997 election and the Electoral Commission always announces a drive to encourage expat votes.
But over the past 20 years there have never been more than 30,000 voters at any time still on electoral registers with the right to vote – fewer than 200 voters per constituency.
Britain strips its citizens of voting rights after 15 years’ residence abroad. Other countries, notably the US but also most EU member states, make major efforts to keep their citizens connected to democracy back home. We treat any Brit who lives outside the UK as a second-class citizen who, like prisoners or peers, should not be allowed to vote.
Good luck to those trying to get more expats to vote, but the idea it has an impact on an election is silly.