UK restores voting rights for millions of Australian residents

29 Nov 2023
uk flag and big ben

Lib Dems start their worldwide campaign in Australia,  informing British citizens about their new upcoming voting rights.

For around 1.2 million British-born Australian residents, 2024 is now election year, whatever happens in Canberra or their State, report the UK's Liberal Democrats.

The UK Government has just published detailed regulations that will allow millions of British citizens living abroad for more than 15 years to vote in the next general election, as required by the UK Elections Act of April 2022.

Until this change, British citizens living abroad could only vote in UK General Elections for up to 15 years after leaving the UK, but the new procedures will change this when they come into force early next year. Amendments to existing election law on overseas voter registration as outlined in the Act will:

  • abolish the 15-year rule
  • increase the registration period to claim a vote from one to three years
  • and set proxy voting limits of up to four people living abroad.

The detailed legislation will be debated by both Houses of Parliament and is expected to become law in time for the registration of new overseas voters to start from 16th January 2024.

This would allow all eligible overseas voters to register before the next UK general election, likely to be either in Spring or Autumn 2024. The new rules will apply to all British citizens of voting age living overseas who have previously lived in the UK or who were registered to vote there.

From Darwin to Hobart and all points in between, UK citizens can now choose between the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Labour, Greens, Nationalists, and a host of other candidates wherever they used to live back in the ‘Old Dart’.

“We know that many British people abroad have a keen continuing interest in politics back home. And they also have many issues affecting them personally that they need to vote on, including frozen state pensions, access to the NHS when visiting the UK, British University access for their kids, security and consular support, climate change and other “hot button” issues. It’s a great relief to finally have these regulations coming into place and a firm target date for new voters to get their registration organised,” said Stephen Yolland, the Liberal Democrats Abroad representative in Australia.

The party have some practical advice for British voters, both existing and new, to help them have a positive experience when it comes to claiming and using their vote.

“We’ve been told by several election administrators that they expect a rush when the new registration portal opens in January next year," says Stephen.

“So we are suggesting that British citizens who moved abroad within the last 15 years but who aren’t registered yet should do so before the New Year rush using the existing online system on the government website at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote."

Newly-eligible overseas voters who moved abroad more than 15 years ago should start preparing in advance of registering by gathering details of their proof of identity (for example, their National Insurance number, plus current and expired passports). In addition, they will need to provide evidence of their last place of residence or of voter registration in the UK.”

For people who aren’t sure which constituency they should register for, Stephen Yolland advises:

“Think back to where you lived before you moved to Australia to work out which constituency you were living in. But be careful, as the boundaries of many UK constituencies have just changed. The easiest way to check is probably on the UK Parliament website at members.parliament.uk/constituencies. That page will also tell you who your current MP is.

We’ve also heard that people are worried about how long it can take to receive and return their ballots by post at election time. So we’re advising people to consider whether there is someone in the UK that they can nominate as their proxy to vote on their behalf.

Not everyone realises that this doesn’t have to be someone from the constituency where they have a vote. It just needs to be a trusted eligible voter in the UK, who will then receive and either vote in person or post their ballot paper to the right constituency.

Whichever method people use, we urge all British citizens living in Australia to exercise their democratic rights and vote in next year’s UK General Election!”