Britons Voting Abroad
ELECTORAL REGISTRATION AND VOTING FROM ABROAD
Registering to vote from abroad
As a UK citizen resident abroad, you can register online to vote in UK parliamentary elections if you fulfill the following conditions:
- you are 18 years of age or over
- you left the UK less than 15 years ago
- you were on the electoral register when you lived in the UK, or if you were under 18 when you left the UK, if your parent/s or guardian/s were on the electoral register
You can register on the Government web-site here.
There is information for Overseas Voters on the Electoral Commission web-site including how to find your Electoral Authority details (by providing the post-code of where you were last registered) here.
Voting from abroad
Once registered as a UK citizen resident abroad you can vote either by post, by proxy, or in person if you happen to be in the UK on election day (and have not been granted a postal vote for that election).
For information about how to cast your vote from abroad, click here
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT PROXY VOTING
If you decide to appoint a proxy in the UK to vote for you, that person must be resident in the UK and must be eligible and registered to vote in the election you want to vote in. The proxy does not have to be a British citizen: Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK are also eligible to vote in UK parliamentary elections.
There are some restrictions on how many people a proxy can vote for: “A person can only be a proxy for close relatives and up to two other people at an election or referendum. Close relatives are the spouse, civil partner, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, child or grandchild of the applicant. The person you wish to appoint as your proxy can only act as proxy if they are 18 or over and they are (or will be) registered for that election or referendum.”
In other words: a person can vote as proxy for any number of close relatives. They can also act as proxy for up to two people to whom they are not related.
The Electoral Commission’s explanation of ‘How to vote as someone’s proxy’ can be somewhat misleading for overseas voters: on the Application form to vote by proxy it says “Your proxy must go to your polling station to vote. If your proxy cannot get to the polling station, they can apply to vote for you by post.” This rather suggests that the default is voting in your polling station and does not make it clear enough that in practice, if you do not know anyone who can be a proxy in the constituency where you are registered, you can choose a proxy who lives anywhere else in the UK. They can then apply for a postal proxy vote: this must be done at least 11 working days before election day. The postal proxy vote must be sent to the constituency where the overseas elector is registered, not the proxy’s constituency.
When you register to vote online you can ask for a proxy application form to be sent: this will come from the Cabinet Office. If you are already registered to vote, you can download the ‘Application to vote by proxy for a British citizen living overseas’ from the Electoral Commission web-site here.
You should send the completed form to the Electoral Registration Office (ERO) of the constituency where you are registered. The form requires your date of birth and signature and the details of your nominated proxy, including their full address.
Most EROs will accept forms returned by email with a scanned signature but they do not all use the same systems. Alternatively the form can be returned by post.
The ERO will then check that your nominated proxy is registered in their own constituency before sending you confirmation, either by post or by email if you have given an email address. The nominated proxy does not have to give consent although you must sign a declaration that you have asked the person named as proxy and confirm that they are willing and capable to be appointed to vote on your behalf. EROs are required to send confirmation to the proxy of their appointment. If your proxy does not receive any formal confirmation, it is advisable for them to check with the relevant ERO.
You do not necessarily have to repeat the nomination of a proxy for each election: the form offers you the following options when applying for a proxy vote:
a) until further notice (i.e. all future elections)
b) applying for a particular election or referendum on a specified date
c) applying for a set period of time
Once your proxy has received confirmation of their nomination as proxy they can apply for a postal proxy vote (so they don’t have to physically go to your polling station). Unfortunately the postal vote application form on the Electoral Commission web-site is not suitable for overseas proxy postal vote applications as it tells you to return the form to the ERO of the proxy not that of the overseas elector. This anomaly has been drawn to the attention of the Electoral Commission in the hope that they will make the necessary amendment, but meanwhile proxies should contact their ERO or that of the overseas elector for guidance on this.
The Electoral Commission web-site has useful information about Voting here
There is no ideal way to vote from abroad:
- Voting by post is risky unless you live in Europe; even then many ballot papers arrive too late to be returned on time or don’t arrive at all
- Voting by proxy means losing the privacy of your vote and having to trust your proxy to vote according to your wishes. There is additional paperwork involved in appointing a proxy
- Voting in person is only likely to be appropriate for limited numbers of people in particular circumstances
Renewal of your electoral registration
It is important to note that electoral registration must be renewed annually as in the UK. However, overseas electors can register at any time of the year and are not concerned by the Annual Canvass that takes place in the UK. Registration lasts for one year dating from the date of original registration. EROs will send renewal reminders 2 – 3 months before expiry of registration and an additional reminder if there is no response during that period. If you do not respond you will be removed from the Register at your renewal date. This means you will have to start the registration process again.
Given the pressure on EROs to deal with many new registrations in the weeks leading up to an election, it is strongly advisable to maintain your registration status annually.
THIS IS PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT IN THE CURRENT CLIMATE OF POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY WHEN THERE IS A POSSIBILITY OF EITHER ANOTHER SNAP ELECTION OR A SECOND REFERENDUM VOTE
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