British ex-pats in France lobby for voting rights

Ex-pats in France are being asked to lobby their MPs in Britain about changing the present voting registration legislation for British voters living overseas.

The British parliament is at present debating changes to the administration of election registrations and administration (Electoral Registration and Administration Bill 2012-13) but nothing in it at present changes the 15-year rule, under which British ex-pats may no longer vote in UK elections after they have lived outside the country for more than 15 years. After that they are disenfranchised.

France and some other European countries allow their ex-pats to retain their right to vote permanently and also have MPs elected according to overseas constituencies to represent their interests.

A case is now before the European Court of Human Rights regarding British ex-pat voting rights. It has been brought by Harry Shindler, a British ex-pat and world war two veteran who has now lived in Italy for more than 15 years. He argues that the 15-year rule is an infringement of his rights and says that he is prepared to take the case to the United Nations Human Rights Council if necessary. He has been told that the European Court will rule on his case, which he presented in 2009, by the end of 2012.

About one million British ex-pats are affected by the 15-year rule.