Election outcome could be determined by 'non-citizens'

April 16, 2007

The result of a close election, whether local or national, might well be affected by nearly 1 million non - British citizens from the Commonwealth currently resident in the UK who, in a hang-over from the past, have the right to vote here, says a new report out today.

Furthermore there are no checks on the nationality or immigration status of those who register to vote, so increasing the chances of people with no entitlement being able to participate illegally in the UK’s democratic process.

The right to vote in general elections should therefore be confined to citizens of the UK, Ireland and certain West Indian countries that reciprocate says the report from think-tank Migrationwatch - ‘Immigration and the UK Voting System.’ (see full results)

It says that in local elections, only citizens of these countries (and of the EU which reciprocates for local elections) should have the right to vote. Proof of citizenship should be required on first registration on the Electoral Roll.

‘A fair, honest and equitable electoral system is the bedrock of a democratic society,’ said Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch. ‘Few people realise how many non citizens have the right to vote and how feeble are the safeguards against illegal voting,’ he said.

Sir Andrew said that, given the massive increase in the immigrant population in recent years, this has become an important issue – exacerbated by the encouragement of postal voting – which could mean that the outcome of a close run election could be affected by the votes of people who are not British citizens and who may not even have the right to vote. ‘At present, for example, there is nothing to stop an Albanian claiming to be a Cypriot or a Somali posing as a Kenyan,’ he said.

The report quotes the Electoral Commission as saying that “….the security of existing voting methods is to a considerable extent illusory, since it depends more on the honesty of the voter than on systematic measures to prevent fraud….”

The Migrationwatch report also highlights the fact that while people from Commonwealth countries, including those with large communities here, such as Australia, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria and Pakistan are entitled to vote in both local and general elections in the UK, this is reciprocated for UK citizens in only the Republic of Ireland and a handful of (mainly West Indian) Commonwealth countries.

‘The massive immigration of recent years has rendered this a very significant and sensitive issue’, said Sir Andrew. ‘Most people would regard the present position, which stems from a law passed in 1918, as wholly inequitable. After nearly a century of massive changes in our society it is high time it was tackled and our electoral system brought up to date.’

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