Voting by non-resident

James made this Freedom of Information request to Electoral Commission

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Roedd y cais yn rhannol lwyddiannus.

Dear Electoral Commission,

Please can you tell me:

(a) Whether commonwealth citizens who are not lawfully resident in the UK are entitled to vote in a national election?

(b) If not, whether it is a criminal offence for a unlawfully resident commonwealth citizen to vote or register to vote in a national election?

(c) If the answer to (b) is yes, how many prosecutions and/or convictions have there been?

(d) What does the electoral commission do to ensure that commonwealth citizens who are not lawfully present in the UK are prevented from voting in national elections? Are right of residency checks carried out on non-British citizens who register to vote? Is there any active effort to prevent unlawfully resident commonwealth citizens from voting in national elections?

Yours faithfully,
James Harvey.

Edward Brightwell, Electoral Commission

1 Atodiad

Dear James Harvey,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

The answers to your queries are freely available on the Electoral
Commission website, on various webpages and guidance documents, included
in the text below.

 

A) To qualify to register to vote, Commonwealth citizens must be resident
in the UK and either have leave to enter or remain in the UK or not
require such leave. Any type of leave to enter or remain is acceptable,
whether indefinite, time limited or conditional. The definition of a
'Commonwealth citizen' includes citizens of British Crown Dependencies and
British Overseas Territories. The list of qualifying Commonwealth
countries is on page 2 of this document:
[1]http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/__data/asse...
The Home Office have confirmed that Commonwealth citizens who are
temporarily in the UK pending removal, are not in the UK legally and are
only physically resident whilst arrangements for their removal are being
made. As these citizens do not have leave to enter or remain they are not
eligible to register to vote (from para 3.65 of Part 2 of the ERO
guidance).

 

B) If an unlawfully resident commonwealth citizen was to vote in a
national election, it would only have been possible if they supplied false
information when registering to the Electoral Registration Officer
regarding their leave to enter or remain in the UK. Knowingly providing
false information on an application is an offence, punishable on summary
conviction by up to six months imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine in
England and Wales or a fine not exceeding £5,000 in Scotland. This would
be a matter for the police to determine.

 

C) I'm afraid the Electoral Commission does not have information regarding
the number of unlawfully resident Commonwealth citizens prosecuted for
electoral fraud due to supplying false information. Any individual
incidence of electoral fraud, would be reported to the police by the Local
Authority. The Electoral Commission would not participate in the
conviction of an individual accused of electoral fraud.   However, we do
have statistical data and analysis of electoral fraud on our website:
[2]http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/fi....

 

D) Local Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) and Returning Officers
(ROs) manage the voter registration process and elections, and are
uniquely placed to detect and prevent electoral fraud. They should have
robust plans in place to identify any suspicious behaviour and should work
with the police to investigate any potential electoral fraud. Local
authorities will process all applications to register to vote. In terms of
Commonwealth citizens, only ‘qualifying’ Commonwealth citizens are able to
apply to vote in UK elections. Qualifying means that they have leave to
remain in the UK or they do not require leave to remain in UK.

 

Applicants for voter registration are required to provide evidence of
their identity. This is normally in the form of personal identifiers such
as date of birth and national insurance numbers (NINo). Where this
information is not provided, or does not match official records, the
applicant is directed to the documentary exceptions process. This requires
the applicant to provide documentary evidence to establish their identity.
The ERO can accept a number of documents as proof of identity for
qualifying Commonwealth citizens (outlined on pages 60-2 in this document
[3]http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__...).
The ERO will have to be satisfied that the documents provided are genuine
before proceeding.   Our guidance makes clear that where an ERO is in any
doubt as to whether an applicant or elector is legally resident, they can
request checks of a person’s immigration status against Home Office
records (Part 2 of our guidance for EROs:
[4]http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__...)

 

EROs have a separate power to require information in relation to their
registration duties and to undertake a review of any elector’s entitlement
to remain registered where they have reason to doubt that that person
remains eligible.  This could include eligibility doubts due to
nationality.

 

Our guidance to EROs also makes clear that if an applicant is unsure
regarding any aspect of their nationality, the ERO should direct them to
contact the Home Office:  www.homeoffice.gov.uk and that they should point
out to them that they need to be sure of their nationality before applying
– knowingly providing false information on an application is an offence,
punishable on summary conviction by up to six months imprisonment and/or
an unlimited fine in England and Wales or a fine not exceeding £5,000 in
Scotland.

 

The police are responsible for investigating any allegations of electoral
fraud. Every police force in the UK has an identified Single Point of
Contact Officer (or SPOC) for electoral fraud, who provides specialist
support and advice to investigators.

 

Prosecuting authorities (the Crown Prosecution Service in England and
Wales, the Crown Office in Scotland, and the Public Prosecution Service in
Northern Ireland) are responsible for taking cases of alleged electoral
fraud to court. They work closely with police forces to examine evidence
about alleged electoral fraud before deciding whether or not to bring a
prosecution.

 

As well as providing guidance, advice and support, the Electoral
Commission collects, analyses and publishes data from police forces about
cases of alleged electoral fraud in the UK each year. We also monitor the
actions taken by others to prevent and detect electoral fraud, and we make
clear where we think changes are needed to ensure the integrity of future
elections. Below is our recent 'Electoral Fraud Vulnerabilities at Polling
Stations Review Summary':

[5]http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__...

 

Do contact me if you have any more questions,

Kind regards,

 

Edward Brightwell
Public Info Officer
The Electoral Commission
3 Bunhill Row

London

EC1Y 8YZ
Tel: 020 7271 0618
Fax: 020 7271 0505

 

[6]www.electoralcommission.org.uk
[7]www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

Putting voters first

[8]http://electoralcommission.us9.list-mana...

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dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Edward Brightwell,

You state that a person who was not lawfully resident would commit an offence of providing false information when registering to vote. Are persons required to confirm their status as a lawful resident when registering to vote? If not, how could an offence of providing false information be committed if such information is not required when registering to vote?

Yours sincerely,

James Harvey

Edward Brightwell, Electoral Commission

1 Atodiad

Dear James Harvey,

 

In order to successfully register to vote, the applicant must provide
information which fulfils) the registration criteria (including
nationality) and is made aware of the requirement to have leave to remain
in order to qualify.  The declaration section at the end of the form asks
the applicant to sign to the effect that they understand that providing
false information is a criminal offence.

Here is the application to register to vote:

[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/sy...

Kind regards,

 

Edward Brightwell
Public Info Officer
The Electoral Commission
3 Bunhill Row

London

EC1Y 8YZ
Tel: 020 7271 0618
Fax: 020 7271 0505

 

[2]www.electoralcommission.org.uk
[3]www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

Putting voters first

[4]Email-signature

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dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Edward Brightwell,

But if a person without leave to remain provides their true nationality, how have they provided false information? The declaration that they are required to sign does not include a declaration that they are lawfully resident in the UK, so they would not make a false declaration by signing it. In my view, a crime would only be committed if:

(a) The form required a person to tick a box to indicate they are lawfully resident in the UK and they falsely ticked it.
(b) The declaration required the person to declare that they were lawfully resident in the UK and they falsely signed it (although this is debatable as the offence relates to providing false information rather than a false declaration).

Yours sincerely,
James Harvey.