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Expat Brits urged to use vote

An overseas voter registration campaign is launching - as fighter for voter rights Harry Shindler receives his MBE medal

19 February 2014

NEXT Wednesday, February 26, has been designated “Overseas Registration Day” by the Electoral Commission, which is hoping to get more expats to take up their right to vote this year.

This comes as Briton Harry Shindler, the well-known voting rights campaigner, has been handed his medal at the British ambassador’s residence in Rome after being made an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.

Expat Britons who have previously been registered to vote in the UK and have not been abroad for more than 15 years are still entitled to vote in UK national elections and in the EU elections in the UK. With the latter coming up on May 22, the Electoral Commission is inviting overseas residents to check out its dedicated site about registering to vote, and download the appropriate forms if they are not yet registered: Register to vote.

It is not essential to register next Wednesday, which is just the official launch day of a campaign to remind people to register promptly to make use of their vote.

If you were too young to be registered in the UK when you left but your parent or guardian was registered (not more than 15 years ago) then young expats may also register.

If you last registered more than a year ago, you will need to renew.

Do remember, however, that as a resident of France, if you registered with your mairie by the end of last year you can vote in France, both in next month’s municipal elections and in the European ones – though you may not also vote in the UK for an MEP if you plan to vote for one in France.

The UK’s policy of cutting off voters after 15 years has been coming under increasing pressure, with the European Commission recently making a strong statement disapproving of it.

Harry Shindler, 93, veteran of Allied landings at Anzio in the Second World War, a leading campaigner against the policy, received his MBE medal from the British ambassador to Rome, Christopher Prentice yesterday.

The award was especially for his work for the Italy Star Association for veterans of the campaign in Italy, however the UK government also acknowledged his voting campaigns, saying they have “raised considerable support in the UK and EU” for extending the limit beyond 15 years.

The ambassador hailed his “extraordinary tenacity” and said he was an “example to us all”.

Having been in Italy since 1982, Mr Shindler has long lost his own right to vote, but remains convinced that modern expats retain close ties to the UK.

Connexion believes that designated MPs for expats in the British parliament, such as France has for its expats, would help make sure expats’ voices are heard on voting and other rights. If you agree sign the petition at : Expat MPs

Photo: British Embassy Rome

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