New section 1 (Extension of parliamentary franchise)
11 New section 1 replaces the existing provision in section 1(1) of the RPA 1985 that extended the franchise for parliamentary elections to include overseas electors.
12 New subsection (1) sets out the eligibility to vote as an overseas elector, namely that the person must meet the requirements of new section 1A (Qualification as an overseas elector in respect of a constituency), must on the date of the poll be registered in a register of parliamentary electors, and must on both the date of the individual’s declaration and the date of the poll be both a British citizen and not be otherwise ineligible to vote (by, for example, being disqualified to vote having been found guilty of certain elections offences). The only exception to the ineligibility requirement is that a person under the age of 18 can make an overseas elector’s declaration before they are 18 years and be entered on the register in pursuance of that declaration in time to vote once they have attained 18 years.
13 New subsection (2) defines the use of "the relevant date", as applied in new section 1. Here, the relevant date means the date on which an overseas elector’s declaration or renewal declaration is made.
New section 1A (Qualification as an overseas elector in respect of a constituency)
14 New subsection (1) replaces existing sections 1(2), (3) and (4) of the RPA 1985. It states that in order to qualify as an overseas elector in respect of a constituency on the date that an overseas elector’s declaration is made the individual must not on that date reside in the United Kingdom.
15 In addition, new subsection (1) also provides that an overseas elector can only register in a particular constituency if they qualify under either one of two conditions that are outlined in new subsections (2) and (3). The conditions are called the ‘previous registration condition’ and the ‘previous residence condition’. An elector can register on the basis of being either:
1. ‘previously registered’ if they were registered to vote in the UK at some point in the past in respect of an address at a place in the constituency in which they are now applying to register as an overseas elector, and if they have not been registered to vote elsewhere since that time; or
2. ‘previously resident’ if they have never been on an electoral register (or if they benefit from new section 1B(4) covered later)1, but have previously lived in the UK in respect of an address at a place in the constituency in which they are now applying to register, and if they have not been resident elsewhere in the UK since that time. (This also includes those individuals of no fixed address who at the time they were resident in the UK had circumstances such that they would qualify to make a ‘declaration of local connection’ if those circumstances and UK residence were occurring now).
16 An address under the ‘previous registration condition’ and ‘previous residence condition’ may include an address for a property that no longer exists, if for example ,it has subsequently been demolished.
17 New subsection (4) ensures that those who could (in theory) have registered under a declaration of local connection (as provided for by section 7B of the RPA 1983) but could not have done so in practice because the relevant law was not in force on that date, can still register under the previous residence condition.
18 New subsection (5) defines "electoral register" as a register of parliamentary electors or a register of local government electors, including a local government register prepared for elections in Northern Ireland. It also defines "relevant date" as the same as the definitions used in section 1.
19 An overseas elector can only register at one address in one constituency by qualifying to register either on the basis of being ‘previously registered’ or ‘previously resident’ as specified in subsection (2) and (3). By submitting a new declaration, the applicant will forfeit any current declarations already made. It is a criminal offence to vote more than once as an elector or more than twice as a proxy in the same election.
1 See also paragraph 23 and new section 1B(4) for details on the circumstances where a person can still be eligible under the previously resident ground when, as a matter of fact, they have been previously registered.