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Don’t deny foreign-born residents the right to vote, say councillors

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Stroud District Council is to ask the government to make the ‘illogical and inconsistent’ voting system fairer for residents from overseas, after a Green Party motion was carried by at the full council meeting.

Of the councillors, 25 voted for the motion and six against. There were 10 abstentions.

The council will now ask the government to extend the right to vote to all overseas nationals who are resident and pay council tax here.

The motion, proposed by Cllr Steve Hynd (Green, The Stanleys) and seconded by Cllr George James (Liberal Democrat, Wotton-under-Edge), calls for the eligibility criteria for foreign nationals to vote in local elections in England to be brought in line with the criteria in Scotland and Wales.

It is a response to the Elections Act 2022, the biggest change of electoral legislation in the last 40 years. The Act has already made photographic voter ID mandatory at the polling station. The next change to be introduced – next summer – is to remove voting rights from some EU citizens.

All EU citizens currently have the right to vote in local elections but under the new law, EU citizens who entered the UK from January 2021 and who are not covered by bilateral voting rights treaties (which apply to Poland, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Spain) will no longer be allowed to vote or stand for election.

Cllr Hynd said: “We’re talking about a million people in the UK who are denied the right to vote in local elections. They live, work, study, make use of public services, and call the UK their home. This motion is really simple; it says that Stroud District Council supports people’s right to vote based on where they are registered to live, not where they happen to have been born.

“The new law creates an unequal situation where some EU citizens will have the right to vote while others will not. We need a consistent approach across the UK so that all council taxpayers have the right to vote in council elections. This will bring us in line with the much fairer systems that are used in Scotland and Wales. To call ourselves a modern democracy we need one where people can vote and stand in elections where they live.”

As well as writing to the government, the Council will now work to ensure residents know about the changes and what their rights are – including publicising the voter registration and photo ID requirements – and will aim to ensure that people are not incorrectly removed from the electoral register.

Similar motions have been carried at several other councils, and there is cross-party support from a wide range of mayors and councillors across the country.

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