Council Motion: Equal Voting Rights

The Election Act 2022 removed the right of some EU citizens to vote and stand in local elections in England and Northern Ireland. Find out more here.

EU citizens who entered the UK after 1 January 2021, coming from countries that do not have bilateral voting rights agreements in place, will lost their right to vote in local elections when the changes come into effect in May 2024.

Scotland and Wales have already introduced residence-based voting rights for all residents with lawful immigration status. But this has not followed yet in England or Northern Ireland.

The motion below has been been moved by the Lib Dem group on Salford City Council. You can download Salford’s motion here.

Below is template Council Motion, based on Salford’s, that you can copy, paste and adapt to call for equal voting rights for all citizens in your area.

Council Notes that:

  • The Elections Act is a huge piece of legislation with implications for the residents of [AREA NAME]. This includes the use of mandatory photographic voter ID at the polling station and changes to overseas voting, and voting / candidacy rights of EU citizens.
  • According to the 2021 census, one in six usual residents of England and Wales were born outside the UK. They live, work, study, make use of public services, and call the UK their home.
  • Many foreign-born residents of this local authority from Hong Kong, the EU and Commonwealth countries are allowed to vote in our local elections.
  • Approximately over 1 million residents across England and Northern Ireland from non-EU and non-Commonwealth countries, and some from Hong Kong do not have a right to vote.
  • The Scottish and Welsh Governments implemented residence-based voting rights where all residents with lawful immigration status have the right to vote in local and devolved national elections.
  • Every resident, no matter where they are from, should have the right to vote, at the least in local elections.
  • There should not be taxation without representation.
  • All residents of the city, no matter their nationality, call Salford their home and bring significant value to our area.
  • The voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens with pre-settled and settled status who entered the UK before 2021 will be maintained through the Elections Act.
  • The London Assembly passed a motion in support of residence-based voting rights on the 11th of November 2021.

This Council has three major concerns:

  1. EU citizens who enter the UK from the 1st of January 2021 are not covered by bilateral voting rights treaties. These are only currently only active with Poland, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Spain. When the Elections Act is fully implemented by May 2024, these residents will lose voting and candidacy rights in local elections. This will create an unequal situation where some EU citizens will have the right to vote, where others will not.
  2. The complexity in voting eligibility will cause confusion and will reduce voter turnout in local elections amongst migrant voters, a group already seen as having a disproportionately lower voter registration rate compared to British voters.
  1. Removing a significant number of EU citizens from the electoral register is burden on council officers and budgets. This also may result in some people being wrongfully removed from the electoral register.

Council therefore resolves to:

  • Instruct the Chief Executive to write to the Minister of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities that the franchise for local elections be extended in England and Northern Ireland to all qualifying foreign nationals, in line with the existent eligibility criteria in Scotland and Wales. This would ensure a UK-wide parity and fair approach to the law and voting rights.
  • That the Council writes to all residents outlining the changes to voter eligibility stemming from the Elections Act legislation.
  • Deliver training to Councillors and relevant officers on the changes brought by the Elections Act so that residents can be accurately informed about their current voting rights.
  • Work collaboratively with voluntary sector organisations in [AREA NAME] to reach residents about current voter eligibility rules and how to vote.
  • Ensure council officers in Democratic Services have a strategy in place to ensure that the implementation of the Elections Act, including the removal of some EU citizens from the register, does not wrongfully remove eligible voters from the register.
  • Continue promoting voter registration and photo ID requirements to residents at citizenship ceremonies, events, and other communication channels.
  • Create social media graphics, as well as website and paper communications outlining voting rights information for [AREA NAME] Hong Kongers, EU Citizens and Commonwealth Citizens who are allowed to vote in our local elections.

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