Some adults vote, some don’t, some even spoil the ballot. But what’s important is that they have the right to do so. However, for over 2 million EU citizens living in the UK, this isn’t the case. Why? Read on to see why EU citizens can’t vote in General Elections and whether this should change.
What the law says
In total, there are 2.2 million EU citizens working in the UK. That’s a pretty sizeable chunk of the electorate excluded. In fact, it’s over 4 percent of the 46.5 million people registered to vote – and enough to swing most recent votes. To put this into perspective, the 2017, 2015, 2010 and 2005 General Elections as well as the EU Referendum were all decided by margins smaller than 2.2 million.
Can they vote? The rules are pretty straightforward – they’re allowed to vote in local elections, police and crime commissioner elections and European parliamentary elections. But, most importantly, they can’t vote in General Elections, and were excluded from the 2016 EU Referendum.
But how does this compare to other EU countries? Actually, it’s the same across the board. Article 22 of the EU Treaty outlines the same voting rights for all EU citizens in whichever EU country they reside.
How to get the vote?
There is a way to ‘earn’ the vote, so to speak. EU citizens can apply for British citizenship, permitted they meet the following requirements:
- Lived in the UK for 5 years without leaving for more than a total of 450 days
- No serious or recent criminal offences
- They intend to continue living in the UK
- Permanent residence
- They meet the ‘knowledge of English’ and ‘life in the UK’ requirements
The process is far from simple, however. Life in the UK tests, for instance, have questions that most British-born citizens would struggle with.
Time for change?
So, should EU citizens be given greater voting rights? It’s certainly worth debating. Millions work in other countries and contribute significant amounts in tax, but are denied their say in how that tax is spent. It would be up to the EU to enforce the change, however, so it would likely exclude the UK, given that we’re heading out of the union.
How about EU citizens staying in Britain after Brexit? Unfortunately, that picture is no clearer. The few voting rights EU citizens do have are also in question. Recent UK proposals failed to specify any sort of voting rights for EU citizens. It’s led Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s Brexit co-ordinator, to assume those with settled status will “lose their right to vote in local elections”.
As it stands, EU citizens are allowed to vote in local elections. But how can local councils and authorities ensure the electorate is engaged? At Idox Elections, we provide electoral software for canvassing, registration, voting and much, much more. Our continuously refined software can help you increase voter turnout and ensure the election process runs smoothly. Sound good? Get in touch with us to discuss any of our products and service.