British expats are snubbing efforts to get them to vote in elections back home, according to a report by the Electoral Commission.
A campaign urging expats to sign up to vote for the May 2014 European and local elections in the UK failed with just 7,000 taking the opportunity to download overseas registration forms against a target of 25,000 set by the commission.
The commission claims expats are a difficult group to target with a message to use their vote.
The commission wants expats to vote in the upcoming 2015 General Election, but fears their call will go unanswered.
“Although the number of downloads was more than that achieved in a campaign before the last European parliamentary elections, we were disappointed not to achieve our target,” said the report.
Registration too complicated
One possible reason why expats are not registering to vote in the UK is because they are signing in other countries.
For instance, 82,000 British expats in Spain registered to vote in elections there rather than in the UK.
Another reason, says the report, is registering in the UK is too complicated for expats. The process involves downloading an online form and then having the completed form countersigned by another British passport holder.
“Perhaps this is too much effort for some expats and we might have to think about changing the procedure for them,” said the report.
British expats who have spent less than 15 years outside the UK are allowed to take part in elections back home.
The commission does not seem to have considered that once expats have left Britain, they are more interested in how politics in the country where they live affects their lives rather than decisions made by the UK government.
Call for support from expats
The commission is also working to remove the 15-year limit and is looking for evidence from expats to support their argument.
Expats can sign up to vote in the UK by through the British government web site and those who have spent more than 15 years overseas can express an interest in having a vote by responding to an online poll.
Foreign expats living in Britain could also vote in the 2014 European elections for the first time in five years.
The report revealed some who wanted to could not vote because their voting forms were incorrectly completed.
“It’s wrong that administrative errors should be a barrier for voting,” said the report.