The Labour Party has announced in its new manifesto that it would hugely extend suffrage by giving full voting rights to all UK residents – as well as reducing the voting age to 16.
The radical policy would see all migrants – including EU and non-EU migrants – being awarded the right to vote in all UK elections, as called for in the immigration policy motion passed at Labour conference.
The manifesto reads: “A Labour government will repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, which has stifled democracy and propped up weak governments. We will maintain 650 constituencies and respond objectively to future, independent boundary reviews.
“We will oversee the largest extension of the franchise in generations, reducing the voting age to 16, giving full voting rights to all UK residents, making sure everyone who is entitled to vote can do so by introducing a system of automatic voter registration, and abandoning plans to introduce voter ID which has been shown to harm democratic rights.”
Although Labour has not pledged to maintain or extend freedom of movement if Brexit is implemented, the party has accepted other key demands in the conference motion – particularly by extending equal voting rights to all UK residents.
In the UK, full voting rights are currently limited to citizens of the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth countries. EU citizens living in the UK can vote in local and European elections, but not general elections.
The next Labour government would change the situation, such that non-EU and non-Commonwealth citizens are awarded the right to vote in all elections. Nondiscriminatory national voting rights are rare, with New Zealand being a notable exception.
Commenting on the manifesto pledge, Cat Smith said: “Labour recognises that migrants from all over the world have helped the UK to build and run our NHS; sustain our social care sector and continue to contribute so much to our society.”
Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement added: “We will do the right thing and give all UK residents the right to vote so that everyone that has helped build our country has a say.”
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