The Sun newspaper’s been told off for misleadingly reporting that the Queen’s in favour of the UK leaving the European Union. But is she allowed to vote in next month’s referendum, asks Justin Parkinson.
The Queen doesn’t vote. She “has to remain strictly neutral with respect to political matters” and is “unable to vote or stand for election”, according to the Buckingham Palace website.
But this isn’t the whole story. The monarch is actually entitled in law to cast a ballot in general election. “By convention the Queen doesn’t vote, rather than because of a legal impediment,” says an Electoral Commission spokesman.
And the European Union Referendum Act states that everyone who can vote in general elections – which includes the Queen – can also take part in the referendum. So, legally at least, she could back the “in” or “out” campaign.
But it’s “consistently been a policy of this Queen, since her early days as head of state, to stay completely above the fray”, says historian and author Sarah Gristwood. “It follows on from a major reinvention of the monarchy following the end of World War One and the establishment of the House of Windsor.”
Before that, Gristwood points out, any Queen would have been unable to vote anyway, because no woman was able to do so until 1918.
In purely legal terms, to try to prevent the Queen from voting would be against Article 39 of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. It states that every EU citizen has the “right to vote and to stand as a candidate at elections to the European Parliament in the member state in which he or she resides”.
Should the Queen ever vote, using Buckingham Palace as her electoral roll address, her polling station – at least according to arrangements for last year’s general election – would be in the Broadbent Room of Methodist Central Hall in nearby Storey’s Gate. Or she could vote by post or using a proxy.
But, again, any of these possibilities is very, very unlikely to happen.
Follow Justin Parkinson on Twitter @justparkinson
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