One of the lesser mentioned elements of this year’s Queen’s Speech is the Votes for Life Bill:
The purpose of the Bill is to:
• Scrap the current 15 year time limit on the voting rights of British citizens living overseas for UK parliamentary and European parliamentary elections, including provisions relating to the registration of overseas electors.
The main benefits of the Bill would be to:
• End the disenfranchisement after an arbitrary 15 years of British citizens living abroad, enabling them to continue voting in UK Parliamentary and European Parliamentary elections.
• Make it easier for overseas electors to cast their votes in time to be counted.
• Encourage larger numbers of British citizens living abroad to register to vote in UK elections.
The main elements of the Bill are:
Franchise: The Bill would enable British citizens who are resident overseas to continue to vote in UK elections after 15 years since they were last resident and registered in the UK.
Electoral Registration: The Bill would provide for the secure and accessible registration of overseas electors.
Electoral Administration: The Bill would contain provisions to make it easier for overseas electors to vote in time to be counted.
Note that last point: “provisions to make it easier for overseas electors to vote in time to be counted”. This is about the problems with postal votes being sent out and returned in time for voters in countries with slower postal systems.
There are many ways of tackling this, including making appointing proxies easier, requiring Returning Officers to give priority to sending out postal ballots to overseas voters first, allowing voting in embassies and … introducing online voting.
Whether the government proposes this or not, the odds of a backbench MP or someone in the Lords putting it down as an amendment are pretty high. Especially if they manage not to think of the expensive fiasco that was the US system for overseas armed forces or the combination of high cost, doubtful reliability and questionable security which marred online voting trials in Britain previously.