Long-term expats fail to overturn the ban on allowing them to vote in UK Elections

Britons living abroad for longer than 15 years are banned from voting in UK elections.

A recent test case taken to the European Court of Human Rights by British ex-pat, Harry Shindler has failed to overturn this ban. Mr Shindler,93, retired in 1982 and moved to Italy to live with his family. He believes that he, along with many hundreds of expats should be allowed to vote in UK elections as they still have ties with the UK.


The test case in May 2013 saw the ECHR rule that the UK government could exercise their rights to impose voting restrictions and that there should be 'room for manoeuvre’ over eligibility for voting rights. The court ruled that a 'close connection' to the UK was not enough of a reason to give expats living abroad the right to vote. It therefore remains the case that expats can vote in UK elections for 15 years but if they live abroad for more than 15 years they lose that right to vote unless they move back to the UK.


Mr Shindler, along with many expats, argue that they retain links with the UK such as bank accounts, pensions and, in some cases, their homes. For these reasons they believe they have a right to a say in the financial and political issues that can affect them.


The UK government say that there is not a very high demand from expats eligible to vote and wanting to vote. They issued figures saying that around 5.5 million UK citizens live abroad, but fewer than 13,000 had registered on UK electoral rolls by 2008.


Mr Shindler a British pensioner and World War Two veteran has been campaigning for several years for the right to vote in UK elections. In an interview with the BBC in 2011 Mr Shindler said "The pensions we get, government and private, come from the UK and those pensions, when they reach a certain limit, are taxed in the UK. "So here we have expats who pay their taxes and are not allowed to vote. It's unacceptable."


On 4 June 1913 Emily Davison threw herself under the King's horse in the Derby in her fight to gain votes for women. Emily died 4 days later. It seems that one hundred years on Mr Shindler is fighting his own battle to regain his right to vote.

A year ago we were told by the ECHR that the UK must give prisoners the right to vote, ruling that the blanket ban on inmates voting in UK elections was unlawful. It has been left to Parliament to work out which prisoners should get a vote. No decision has yet been made regarding which inmates will be allowed to vote, the debate is currently ongoing.


In an interview Mr Shindler told how he had written to the UK government and received a letter from Jack Straw stating that Britons abroad could not vote as they had broken their ties with Britain. Mr Shindler asked "If people who have broken the law, are in jail – and in my book broken their ties with society more than people who live abroad – can be given the vote then why can't we?”

Bailii - British and Irish Legal Information Institute

United Kingdom: Expats denounce Government over voting rights | Telegraph

BBC News - Expat veteran Harry Shindler fights for right to vote

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