The Queen’s speech has hinted at the possibility of introducing an online voting option to make elections more accessible for overseas voters.
The Queen’s Speech takes place during the State Opening of Parliament which marks the formal start of the parliamentary year. The Queen’s Speech sets out the Government’s agenda for the coming session, outlining proposed policies and legislation.
One of the bills, entitled the “Votes for Life” bill, outlines proposals to scrap the current 15-year time limit on UK citizens living abroad voting in Westminster and European elections. It also states that it will provide for secure and accessible registration of overseas electors.
On electoral administration, the Queen’s Speech states that the bill contains ‘provisions to make it easier for overseas electors to vote in time to be counted.’
It is not yet clear what form this will take, but with previous experience of issues with the postal voting method, it may allude to the introduction of an online voting option for overseas voters.
The bill also references a report by the Hansard Society from March 2014 entitled “Our forgotten voters: British citizens abroad” which states as one of its recommendations that ‘a feasibility study of electronic voting should be carried out’ with the trial being undertaken ‘in parts of the world with a high concentration of British expatriates.’
There are an estimated 4.6 million UK citizens currently living abroad.
Other countries that have used online voting for overseas voters include France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain (Catalonia), and the USA (Arizona and West Virginia).
The Labour Party have called for online voting to be piloted in the UK and research by WebRoots Democracy has found that introducing an online voting option in elections could significantly boost turnout, accessibility, and accuracy.
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