FOLLOWING our request to hear from British readers about why they do or do not register to vote in UK elections, we received over 100 responses. A selection is published here.
Please note that views expressed are not necessarily shared by The Connexion and we do not guarantee whether statements made about voting are up-to-date or accurate. We will run an article responding to some of the concerns readers raised, in the February edition of The Connexion newspaper.
Thank you again to everyone who wrote to us or who took part in our online survey into reasons why some expats do not register to vote, which is still open until the night of Friday December 19 at: Survey. We will be discussing this survey, the email responses and the issue of expat registration in general in January's edition of The Connexion.
The email responses published here, and the survey results, will also be shared with the British Electoral Commission, which has asked for our help towards their campaign to encourage more expatriate Britons to register to vote before the general election in May 2015.
If you want to register to vote you can do so here: Register to vote.
I didn't vote in national elections because quite frankly, where I lived they could have put a blue rosette on a donkey and it would have been elected as the Conservative MP. When we moved to France eight years ago I didn't feel that there was any point in registering to vote because I would only be voting for an MP with whom I had no connection. I would have been more inclined to register for an expat vote if there was an MP specifically representing expats (as I believe the French have for their expats).
I have just registered for an expat vote for the first time in case there is a Euro in/out referendum as I would hate to leave Europe without at least having tried to stay in.
We have just had a reminder to renew our electoral registration and have completed the form for an overseas voter postal vote, as our son may be moving away from the area.
Has the system changed so that we have time to return postal votes or is this again a case of the left hand not knowing what's going on with the right?
Having read in Connexion about registering to vote in the UK elections, we decided to have a go. As we had thought it was very difficult to arrange. How wrong we were. We found it so easy to do via the Internet. So long as you have the post code of your last address in the UK together with your national insurance number and passport, it takes no time at all.
We would recommend everyone to do it.
I have lived permanently in France for over 12 years, and as suggested in your paper, contacted my MP (Sir George Young, the Conservative Chief Whip) to ask him to vote for the abolition of the 15 year rule. His reply (from a member of his staff) said that he thought there was little chance of the rule being abolished in the present parliament.
My civil service pension has to be taxed in the UK, although I have opted to have my other pensions taxed in France, and I told Sir George that I thought it grossly unjust that I should be disenfranchised but still have to be taxed on part of my income in the UK.
I also made my views known on the abolition of the Winter Fuel Allowance on the grounds that France is a 'hot' country, I think I am correct in saying that if the same basis for determining the temperature was applied to England then that country wouldn't qualify either.
We are not registered because it might upset our non-dom status.
Presumably at the end of 15 years I will lose my right to vote in UK elections and will have no right to vote in French national elections either. So, paying taxes in both the UK and in France does not entitle me to any voting rights. What a shameful state of affairs - happy enough to take my money but not to let me have a say in the government of the day.
If one lives permanently in France, has no property or financial interests in the UK, pays no UK taxes and therefore has no particular view on UK Government policies as they have no significant impact so why should one feel the need to vote ?
And, looking at the choices available... I actually feel some sympathy for the British electorate but then it's the same here really (isn't it?)
I expect a large reason for this is people not wanting their last local authority to know where they are.
Usually that’s because they left owing, say, a parking fine or final council tax instalment and the like.
The more of us registered the more likely it is that the UK government will take notice of what we say. When we look at the possible future of an in/out referendum I think it is very important that we are all registered and that we all push to be included in the referendum and not be excluded like the ex-pat Scots during their referendum. The impact of a possible million expat votes to remain IN could swing the result.
There are two reasons why expatriates don’t vote in the UK.
Firstly their remoteness from their old UK constituency. Even though it is a marginal constituency and our vote might count, we left Bristol North West seven years ago, no longer know who the MP, is and have no residual interest in the city.
The second reason is the unabashed cynicism of the British government of all shades as evidenced by their refusal to increase the retirement pensions of retirees in most of the Commonwealth countries and counting in French overseas territories when calculating the average winter temperature in France. The conclusion is that ‘fairness’ is never a factor and for most MPs self-interest prevails. In other words why should we bother to vote?
Disinterest in UK voting rights baffles me. Even if you only have a UK state pension, you would surely wish to influence Britain's policy makers. Britain's place in the EU must be of concern, more so, in view of a forthcoming referendum. Additionally, those with financial interests or property in the UK might think similarly.
There are many areas where the UK legislation affects all of us resident in Europe and a unified expatriate vote could, truly, influence an electoral outcome and, most saliently: it is a democratic right.
I am a British passport holder and have been permanently resident in France for almost 17 years: I therefore lost my right to vote in UK. A UK expat MP is irrelevant; our main concern is participating in the democratic process of our country of choice of residence - France. Outside concerns about our UK state pension, the UK we knew is now 17 years away. What I would like to see is the right to vote in the main establishment elections after a set period of permanent residence in France, not just the local mayoral and European elections but this is unfortunately not possible without French citizenship.
The reason so few British expats vote is that they can only do so in the constituencies they last lived in. Unless you last lived in a marginal, or a likely marginal, it is not worth the bother. What we want is our own expat MP, like the French have.
Both my wife and I are registered to vote in the UK. We pay tax there and equally important, will be affected by all changes to tax and social security benefits in the future. The Winter Fuel Payment fiasco is a case in point. Expats need to be represented at national level – if not in their chosen country of residence, then in their country of origin.
After ten years living permanently in France and renovating a three-hundred-year old house whilst struggling to learn about everything from French language to rules about taxation and health care, I’m afraid voting in Britain somehow got lost among the mêlée.
It’s not that I don’t care about what happens in Britain but I just assumed that since I lived permanently in France, I would no longer have a vote in Britain.
I would be happy to vote during the next general election, especially since there seems to be an alarming negativity towards the European Union.
Why alarming? If the British Government wants to wash its hands of the European Union, it will inevitably wash its hands of those trusting British citizens who came to France on the understanding that they were not leaving Britain behind but who were embracing a new future of a united Europe.
We no longer eligible for a vote in the UK. We own property in the UK which is let and we pay tax in the UK on this income, therefore we still have strong links and feel we have a right to be involved in the UK political system. I also believe that expats should be represented by an MP as are French expats in the UK.
I am a UK citizen living in the Republic of Ireland and have registered to vote in the UK. It's hugely important for me to vote in UK elections for two reasons. Firstly, the UK government controls my passport. All the time a state has control over my freedom of movement I feel I should have a say in who that government is. Secondly, I have close family living in England and still see it as my "cultural home" and return as often as possible. It is therefore of extreme importance to me what happens there.
I left the UK 32 years ago. I have never voted in UK elections since then. Two reasons:
1. I really don't care.
2. It might affect my domicile status.
We gave up trying to have a postal vote when the papers arrived too late to be sent back to the UK.
My husband and I would like to vote as we have lived in France permanently for nine years. However voting papers are only sent out four days prior to voting which is not enough time to return them. I know you can get someone in the UK to vote for you but our problem is that we moved house just a year before coming to France, only stayed in the house for short periods and consequently do not know anyone who could vote for us. If the voting papers were sent out earlier it would solve our problem.
I feel it is only right for me to have the right to vote in the UK because:
1. I was born in, have lived and worked most of my life in the UK. I came to France to work.
2. I have paid tax and still pay tax in the UK. I am a UK pensioner.
3. My family live and work in the UK.
4. I have the right to live in and will probably return to live in the UK and would like to have a say in current politics.
5. Just because a British person does not live there does not mean that they are no longer interested in UK politics.
It is not easy to vote in the UK.
I have registered but the following points need to be born in mind.
You have to register in the place of your last UK address;
You have to keep re-registering and I have just received a six-page form to register again.
You can vote by post or proxy. However it is not safe to vote by post as the ballot forms are not sent out early enough to guarantee their return before the deadline;
You can vote by proxy but you need to know someone in that registration district.
Since moving to France nine years ago, we have always voted in every available election in England and in the French ballots that we are permitted to - why? Because we strongly believe that participating in a vote is a duty of every elector, and sincerely trust that the 15 year rule will indeed be overturned in the very foreseeable future. We may have chosen to live outside the UK but this does not imply we have no interest in the affairs of our country and would wish to attempt to influence fundamental decisions made in the British Parliament.
I'm a UK taxpayer and I consider I should have some say in UK politics.
I am registered, but my 15 years runs out next April. Twelve of those years was working as a British international civil servant in Brussels, but I recently was informed that I should have applied, at the start, to have my overseas working time excluded, because this cannot be considered retrospectively.
With UK decisions to be made on Europe ahead, not having a say in matters affecting our lives is not good news. Were those of us now in Europe not fulfilling the spirit of the UK's EU membership by becoming involved?
My wife received a reply from her MP's office advising that they did not respond to non UK addresses.
In reply to your query re voting rights, we tried once a few years ago but the voting papers were only sent to us a couple of days before the deadline! Subsequent attempts were ignored. So we have given up. We were in Trafford ward , Manchester.
We registered to vote because the UK still gets tax revenue from nearly all our income, so we want some say in how it is spent. I did write to our MP suggesting that there would be less pressure to extend the time limit to vote if the UK ceased taking our taxes after 15 years; surprisingly we did not get a reply to that one.
I would imagine that many expats do not vote because they feel that it is a waste of time, a feeling seemingly shared by many UK residents if one looks at the pathetically low turn out in many elections.
With the rise of UKIP, I find it incredible that expats do not register to vote; if UKIP gets any power at all, the prospect of staying in Europe becomes even more remote: a situation that will seriously affect all of us.
It's going to be the most interesting- and possibly life-changing - election for many years.
It is important for me to vote because a democratic system will only be of the greatest value if all those entitled to vote do so. As a British citizen living in France I do not have the right to vote in other than municipal elections. Therefore if I do not vote in the UK I have no part to play in government.
I must pay my taxes in the UK as I am in receipt of a public service pension. The long respected adage "No taxation without representation" is, therefore, important for me.
The ability to vote via the internet would improve expat participation and ease the tasks and costs of returning officers.
A referendum on the UK's continued membership of the European Union is a crucial matter for all expats (as you have so clearly emphasised in recent articles). Expats may find themselves in severe difficulties in some European Union member states if the UK withdraws from the Union, they need to vote.
Last time there was a general election we registered in plenty of time, but by the time we received the forms it was took late to send them in. We are quite disillusioned the way expats are treated. As pensioners we are disgusted about the decision to stop our fuel allowance, we do not live in a warm country. It is as cold here as when we lived in England in the winter. Is there any point us trying to register again?
I would like to be registered but where can I register and in respect of which constituency? Having said that, I do despair at the state of politics in the UK and wonder whether a vote one way or the other is going to make much difference.
My wife and I are both registered to vote in the UK. I emailed our MP (Norman Baker) to appeal to him to vote in favour of repealing the 15 year rule.
Whilst we could register to vote locally, this would only apply to municipal and European. It is highly unlikely that a French MEP would support any motion proposed by the UK to our advantage. As a UK state pensioner, it is important to vote for a UK MP and MEP to protect our rights – something that will be even more important with discussions about the UK leaving, or modifying it’s terms of membership of, the EU.
I find now that we do not have a right to vote in the UK as we were not registered to vote before we came to France. We have no-one to represent our interests in the UK parliament.
It amazing that a French born citizen, no matter where he lives in the world, is entitled to vote at national elections, whereas the UK government seems to try to disown its British born nationals once they have settling abroad.
The reason I haven't registered before is that Henley-on-Thames is such a safe Conservative seat that whatever I voted would make no difference.
The reason I want to register now and to keep my voting rights is that I want to be able to vote on any referendum that may be held on Europe.
I feel very strongly that although we no longer live in the UK we should still be able to vote - and not just for 15 years as at present - but lifelong, like French expats for example. Like me, I am sure most Brits still have family in the UK, go there on visits, take an interest in UK politics (and moan about it). I am trying to persuade as many Brits living in my immediate are to register for overseas votes, but usually people do not seem that interested.
We live in France and have registered to vote in the UK. In the letter we received we are told that ballot papers will be sent out five days before an election. There is no way we will receive the ballot papers and return them in that time. We can appoint someone to vote for us but no one is that interested to do this for us. I am at the moment trying to see if we can vote online.
In many ways it would be more relevant if we could vote here in France - that would be my preferred option. Readers should be aware that the UK Inland Revenue look up the electoral register and take note of expats who are registered to vote in the UK.
This is taken as one of the criteria that prove a continuing connection with the UK in questions of tax residency and liability to UK tax.
My wife and I voted regularly until we had been living in France for 15 years. More often than not we voted postal/proxy as we were in the military for 35 years serving mainly abroad. As a tax payer in UK (no choice on that as it is a government pension) we took great exception to having our vote taken off us. I believe a war was fought over taxation without representation. However, no help from my MP at all. In fact he didn’t even respond to our emails.
We are registered, as much as anything to ensure that we do not get an anti-European government. It may be important to achieve some reform and clear objectives going forward, but the importance of a family of nations working together is more important in the longer term than the interest of any short-term gain by any one nation.
We have been registered to vote in England since 2002 and have only till 2017 left. we always use our vote but none of our expat friends seem to do so and this really annoys us. I think it is laziness myself and think only some real anti-expat legislation from our parliament will make any difference to them by which time it could be far to late! If expats can’t be bothered why should the MPs worry?
I do not vote because I can't see the point of voting for one set of cheating, incompetent liars over another. I voted with my feet by leaving the "sinking ship".
Each time we have received our postal ballots it was already too late to get them back to the UK by the deadline. As the date of the 2015 General Election was indicated some years ago under the fixed-term system then who knows, things might be different this time - but we're not holding our breath.
I have lived in France since 1997 and was ignorant of the fact that in the early years I was able to register to vote in the UK. As I understand it under current legislation I no longer have this right as I have been away from the UK for too long. If I had known at the time I would definitely have voted.
I have never thought of taking French nationality I consider myself to be a British subject and a European living in France. I still have family in the UK and visit regularly.
In the light of the promised referendum should the Conservatives be successful in the next general election I would consider it to be totally unreasonable not to have a voice on continued European membership.
I have had an arrangement with a friend in my constituency for about twenty five years. Even before coming to live in France fourteen years ago, I was often out of the country when elections came around.
He is a staunch supporter of one party, and I am a staunch supporter of another.
We agreed, that neither of us should vote. Until death us do part.
I trust him. That's how we've got around the fifteen year rule.
I don't vote in the UK because I do not pay taxes there but here in France where I have no vote, except in municipals and European elections. What the campaign should be is getting votes in the country where you live and pay taxes.
We moved to France in 2008 and I looked into registering but at the time, it looked like I needed to complete a very lengthy form and I couldn't be bothered, so much going on at the time. Since then, I have felt I have so little to do with the UK now, that it really wasn't right that I should vote.
I was not aware that I could register online and thanks to your link, I have done just that. It was very easy to use and took just a few minutes. So thank you for that information.
I am keen to vote in the next election. I am very concerned about the issue of the UK leaving the EU. Not just because of the effect it may have on us expats but also because I think it would be a disaster for the UK. I may not live there now but it is still 'home'.
In any event, I think it is wrong that one loses the right to vote after 15 years. One continues to be a UK citizen the right to vote should remain for life.
Regarding your article on expat votes I find it strange that anyone should be able to vote in England having left there to make a new life in France. On the other side of the coin, however, I feel we should have the right to vote in French national elections as we have the right to pay French taxes.
As a registered voter and pensioner I applaud MP Mr Clifton-Brown as I do Mr Harry Shindler, for all their efforts. I resent the attitude that expats don't count, we are
all affected by UK government decisions on pensions, travel, welfare, money, not to mention if the UK leaves the EU.
I have been resident in France for over eight years and have never voted in a UK election – the main reason is that I live here, this is my life!
The second reason is that most politicians are duplicitous anyway and unlikely to accede to my self interested topics that are confined to UK taxation and pensions.
My husband and I are registered to vote in the UK and I contacted my 'local' MP (John Redwood) regarding extending the right to vote beyond fifteen years. His comment on the subject was that if we continue to have interests in, and make a contribution to, the country then we should be allowed representation. As such he was happy to support the recent 10 minute bill.
In a democracy we have rights and obligations that we need to honour if we are claim citizenship and seek the protection that the passport offers. We are only able to do this effectively if we retain the right to vote and exercise that right.
I live in France and am registered to vote in the UK. Whenever conversations with expats turn to politics, as they often do, I often find that it is the people who express the loudest and most extreme views are those who have not bothered to register to vote, even though they are entitled. Whilst I would normally encourage everyone to express their views by voting, I no longer do so. I would be delighted if all the extremists I have met over the years choose not to use their right to vote.
I most certainly would vote, and did so regularly before I was prevented from doing so by the 15 year rule. I still have business interests in the UK, and would welcome the chance to voice concern on matters that affect them.
We have been registered to vote since shortly after we arrived here in 2005. Whilst we can only vote in the local municipal and European elections as we are not French nationals, we feel that it is important that our voice is heard as full time residents. The first time we went to the mairie to vote we were welcomed with open arms and walked through the entire process by the secretary to the mairie.
Over the years we have become more and more integrated, so much so that in the autumn of 2013 Valerie was asked by the mayor to stand as part of his re-election team and is now the first ever non-French born conseillère municipale in our village. The lack of registered UK-born voters became quite apparent in our village when the election campaigns started, only about 30% of the eligible non-French nationals living full time in the village are registered to vote.
However, even though Valerie sits on the council, she is still unable to vote in the presidential elections. She also found out that she is ineligible to vote for our local Senator when a meeting was called for the vote on her birthday and the first words out of the mayor’s mouth were to say that she needed to be there for quorum purposes, but she couldn’t vote – work that one out!
I object to the the difficulty involved in maintaining registration. You have to contact the council office where you last lived every year and each time complete documentation that requires you to find somebody qualified to sign your papers. Not easy in the countryside. That is the sole reason I have currently allowed my right to elapse.
I don't vote as I live in France and have very little connection with what to me is a foreign country. Plus, how does one tell the difference between the lies of one politician or political party and another? They are all as bad as each other and have self interest and glory at heart!
I have previously registered for overseas voting but the actual practice of trying to vote has been farcical. Voting papers have not arrived in time and proxy votes can also be unreliable. Internet voting would solve all this. If it's possible for companies to allow shareholder votes by Internet then why not elections.
I'm one of the people who's no longer eligible to vote (27 years in France) but still feel involved in UK matters - and I would certainly register if I could. Why do I still feel involved? First, I believe that it's increasingly normal for people to move for work but not to want to cut social, cultural, economic (even political) ties with the home country. Second, I get a pension from the UK (and France), pay tax and retain a flat there. In a more general way, I object bitterly to being completely disenfranchised - this is something the EU and its member states should ensure does not happen for any of its citizens as a result of the free movement of people.
I first registered when I moved from the UK to South Africa, this took forever to be acknowledged and when there was an election in the UK they sent the voting forms late so any vote would have been wasted. Furthermore, they didn't send any annual reminders or indicate that re-registration was necessary, just sent a letter after two years informing me my name had been removed from the list.
I downloaded the required forms and after filling them in I went to my local mairie and got the maire to authorise the details with his official stamp and I then sent them to Huntingdonshire. Several weeks later the forms were returned with the comments that they had to be signed by an English person. I live in the countryside surrounded by French people (and cows).
The main reason overseas Britons do not vote must surely be because we have no way of doing so. We can register to vote by email, but to actually vote we have to move back into the pre-20th Century era and do it by post! We are sent a ballot paper about four to five weeks before an election, but the postal franking on it frequently reads "UK Postage paid" which apparently does not include overseas airmail. Thus by surface delivery the form will take anything up to six weeks to reach us (if we happen to live in Australia) or sometimes only three to four weeks if we live nearby (in South Africa or Zimbabwe.)
The postal services in the countries in which some of us live are not up to British standards and even local mail from five or 10 miles away will take a week to reach us. At present our postal services have been on strike for four months which extends the delay even further. How can we possibly get the ballot form back to UK by post before the election date? Air mail from here to UK takes approx 10 to 12 days, even though the plane takes less than 12 hours to make the journey. So far as I am aware, there has never been any facility for voting at British embassies or consulates with the ballot papers being transported in a diplomatic bag.
Unless the UK wakes up and institutes electronic voting which we can do by email, as I understand Americans have had for many years, we don't have a hope - let alone a vote! Yet we still want to be part of the system. Please show us just a little bit of consideration.
I found it very easy to register to vote in UK elections. We had postal votes in the UK for some years, being very politically active, but sometimes away from our UK address at election time. Getting the local government electoral officer to register us to vote in UK local and national elections once we moved to France was very straightforward. If you can manoeuvre through the French tax and social systems, getting a UK vote relevantly is easy to achieve.
As a (current) UK tax payer, I believe in "no taxation without representation", and have voted in every national and local election since I was 18 (which was for me the Edward Heath referendum on joining the EEC. I voted 'Yes').
I am about to go to my local mairie to register to vote in local council and EU elections in France, now I am resident here.
I agree with those countries that make voting compulsory, even if one voids one's vote. I know Australians and Americans who have to attend their UK embassies to register their vote in order to avoid significant fines.
Yes, I registered to vote as soon as I left the UK and the next General Election will be my last, unless something is done about the 15 year rule.
Being able to vote is important to me. I know that just one vote doesn't make a lot of difference, but when enough people take the view that it doesn't matter, that's how Germany got Hitler.
I don't believe the UK government should take away my right to vote after 15 years. I spent all my working life in the UK and my pension comes from there, so I think I should be able to choose a representative.
I would very much like there to be an expat constituency that would make it possible to have a MP who would look after our specific interests and ask questions in Parliament on our behalf.
If we do not utilise our democratic rights, as and when UK government and their policies may well change from next year and onwards - these changes can adversely affect all expatriates eg. non co-operation/withdrawal of assistance if needed via British Embassies.
As British nationality expatriates, there are so many aspects of political decisions taken and laws passed in the UK that can directly or indirectly affect us, we must not be complacent and assume it doesn't matter. It is so easy to register to vote online, that I would urge every single expatriate who is eligible to vote now before the General Election in May, to do so.
Stop fence-sitting, complacency and selfishness - your vote can also help others who need thinking about - not just you. If you don't look after what, after all, is in your own interests no one else will!
Stop thinking it doesn't affect me - one day it might.
Unless the UK "government" (I'm not sure a lot of them are up to the job!) change the 15 year rule for ex-pat voting, the coming General Election will be the last one that I will be eligible to take part in.
Why on earth we still cannot vote on-line I cannot think. Even the Nationwide Building Society is more efficient with their annual voting exercise than HM Government.
This I suggest has a big bearing on why expats don't vote - I am sure that give them the tools (internet voting) there would be a much higher turnout.
My wife and I are registered to vote in the UK until 2019 and I have corresponded with my MP on several occasions but, as there are not a significant number of expats worthy of cultivation, it appears that we are very forgettable .
Our ongoing connection to England is paying taxes and the pensions earned by spending our working lives in England paying pension contributions and the whole range of taxes. Our family live in England and we exchange regular telephone calls and visits. To the world, except England, we are always the ‘English’ even with our French friends. Our vote is withdrawn after 15 years even though we will continue to pay taxes. The dismissive treatment by our country of birth, education and work makes us wonder where we can call ‘our country’.
They have cheated on figures to remove the Winter Fuel Payment. Now they are looking to remove other allowances. Can we stop paying UK taxes?
Both of us are registered to vote in the UK elections now we are residents of France. It is an annual 'chore' but must be done. If it could all be dealt with on-line, like our UK banking is, that would be a vast improvement.
To vote in the UK is important because:
a. We still hold most of our money back in the UK (we have current and savings accounts in two different banks, plus credit cards).
b. Pensions etc. are paid into our UK accounts, and we transfer money over, as and when needed.
c. Our pension/savings were invested for us before we left the UK so much of the 'action' on any investments is UK-based.
d. Any changes in legislation, interest, taxes, (good or bad) directly affect us, even though we may not be residents any more.
e. We have paid all our taxes, for all our working lives, and are entitled to have a say in how our tax money is spent by the government and for this reason it is essential to have a voice in choosing the government we think will do the best job.
f. We are allowed to vote in our village and departmental elections but not the National election - so we are disenfranchised on both counts. Surely as EU citizens we ought to be entitled to vote for the government. in at least one place of residence, if not both, when it comes to national elections.
Before the recent introduction of online registration the postal process was too burdensome - obtaining forms, copying passports, getting another UK voter to sign the application form for you, etc. We got as far as filling in the forms but had no-one to countersign the application for us and after a year threw the forms out. Now we've both registered online and are awaiting further information/confirmation from our former parliamentary constituency in England.
I have been registered for postal voting since arriving in France seven years ago. However, each time they are so late that it is impossible to get them back on time. The last elections, the Europeans, my postal vote form arrived on the day of the election.
After this last debacle it was suggested that I use a proxy, which I have done, it also admits that Trafford Borough Council have admitted defeat in that it is impossible for them to deliver OPV's in time for anyone to vote.