Elections: Commonwealth Citizens

House of Lords written question – answered on 16th November 2011.

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Photo of Lord Ashcroft Lord Ashcroft Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps are taken by electoral registration officers to ensure that the requirements allowing qualifying Commonwealth citizens to vote are met when a Commonwealth citizen applies to be registered to vote in United Kingdom elections and referendums.

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

All British, resident Republic of Ireland and qualifying Commonwealth citizens are entitled to register to vote in UK parliamentary elections, local elections, and European elections assuming that all of the other registration criteria are also met. For the purposes of registering to vote, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen is an individual who either does not need leave to enter and remain in the United Kingdom, or who does need such leave and has it.

Resident citizens of other European Union member states are eligible to vote at European parliamentary elections and local elections. The franchise for referendums is, however, determined on a case by case basis.

Whether an application for registration is made through the annual canvass or by rolling registration in the rest of the year, regulations provide that the application for registration must, among other things, state the applicant's nationality and include a declaration that the details given in the application are true. The electoral registration officer has the power to require any person to provide information required for the officer's duties. That would include information relating to the eligibility of an applicant, for instance their age, nationality, residence and whether or not they are disqualified. Where an electoral registration officer has doubts about a person's nationality, they may require the person to provide evidence including a statutory declaration that he or she is a qualifying Commonwealth citizen. Provision of false information to an electoral registration officer for any purpose connected with the registration of electors is an offence.

It is for the local electoral registration officer to determine whether a person is eligible to be registered. If it does not appear to the officer that a person in whose name an application is made is eligible, that person should not be added to the register. If the electoral registration officer determines that a person whose name appears on the register is not entitled to be registered, the officer must remove that elector from the register.

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