British expats are being encouraged to sign up to vote as overseas voters in UK elections by the Electoral Commission.
The commission wants to do away with the 15-year voting rule that bars expats living overseas from taking part in elections.
To help their cause, they need to persuade Parliament that expats want to vote.
A global campaign to sign up voters starts in February, with expats in Australia, USA, Spain, Canada, Ireland, France, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates as targets.
The campaign needs 100,000 expats to register to overturn the rule – the current number of registered overseas voters is about 30,000.
The aim is to increase the number of expats qualifying to vote in the 2015 general election.
The commission has told the Parliamentary Parties Panel that online marketing is the most effective way of reaching out to expats with their message.
As a result, advertising on international search giant Google is about to start. The adverts will be based around keyword searches.
The commission is also seeking to contact prospective voters through expat web sites, the BBC and British newspapers with international services.
“Previous campaigns have shown this is a cost-effective way of contacting British expats,” said the commission.
“The campaign will also include online advertising triggered by people typing search terms that indicate an interest in UK elections, and messages by email set up in the UK accessed overseas.”
The commission also plans to advertise on Talk Radio Europe and other overseas radio stations popular with expats.
Votes for expats
Political parties, British consulates and embassies will also be asked to help contact expats interested in voting.
Critics have pointed out that expats who are interested in voting are probably already signed up as overseas voters and that a campaign to more than triple the tally is unlikely to return the results the commission wants.
Many developed nations, including the US, Switzerland France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and,
Spain allow expats to take part in national elections without restriction.
France even has several expat representatives in Parliament.
However, British expats lose the right to vote in national elections after 15 years overseas, except for those in the military, civil servants and British Council employees.
Votes for Expats, an organisation lobbying to give expats better voting rights, points out that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has a Spanish wife who can vote in her home country while living in Britain, but if the situation was reversed, Clegg would not be able to vote in British elections if he lived in Spain for more than 15 years.