Friday, 12 January 2024, 14:06
British citizens living in Spain will be able to register to vote again in UK national elections from 16 January. The so-called 15-year rule, introduced in 2002, prevented British citizens who had lived outside the UK for more than 15 years from voting.
However, after many years of campaigning by groups representing Britons' abroad, the Elections Act 2022 repealed the rule and it was implemented into UK law on 18 December 2023.
Jane Golding, Co-Chair of campaign group British in Europe, said, "This is a historic change after years of campaigning by ourselves and others to get the right to vote for all British citizens, regardless of where they live. The change means that all British citizens abroad will now have a constituency MP and someone to write and ask what they are going to do on the issues that they care about."
Any British citizen, including Irish citizens who also have British citizenship aged 18 and over who have previously been registered or lived in the UK, even only as a child, have the right to vote in general and by-elections.
Eligible citizens do not need to have been previously registered to vote before leaving the UK. Voters may register either in the last place they were registered to vote or in their last place of residence before emigrating.
For UK citizens who have lived outside the country for more than 15 years or never registered to vote in the UK when they lived there, registration opens on 16 January. Those who have lived outside the UK for less than 15 years and were previously on the electoral roll can already apply at any time.
There will be a cutoff date for registration to vote in the next parliamentary elections but that will depend on the date set for polling day, which is expected to be later this year. If registering in England, Wales or Scotland this can be done online or by post. Postal and proxy voting are both possible and the information on how to arrange both options is available on the UK government website. For further information, to register and to make a declaration as an overseas elector, visit the UK government website: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
This change of law does not apply to UK local (town hall) elections, although British citizens who are resident in Spain and registered on their town hall padrón can sign up to vote in local elections in Spain each time they are held.
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