UK citizens living overseas – Don’t miss out, you may be able to vote at the 2015 General Election

Registration-web-button-for-overseas-audience_jpg
Did you know that British nationals living overseas can take part in the UK General Election this year? If you didn’t – you wouldn’t be alone.

Lots of people don’t know that this is possible, which is perhaps one reason why out of an estimated 5.5 million UK nationals who live overseas fewer than 20,000 people are currently registered as overseas electors.

This is an important message, especially with the General Election fast approaching, so the Electoral Commission is working hard to reach expat audiences to let them know that they may be able to take part.

The really good news is that you can now register online.

In order to register you must have been previously registered in a UK constituency within the last 15 years.

If you were too young when you left the UK to have been registered, then you can register as an overseas voter if your parents (or guardians) were registered in the UK in the last 15 years.

Now with online registration, filling in the application form takes approximately five minutes, and can be done from wherever you have an internet connection. All you need is your National Insurance number and your date of birth. If you don’t have your National Insurance number you can still register, but you may be asked for some extra information by your Electoral Registration Officer.

When it comes to actually voting, it’s really important that overseas voters choose the best way of voting to suit their circumstances. You can choose to vote via one of three methods. You can vote either by post; by proxy (you designate someone you trust to vote on your behalf in the UK); or in person at a polling station in your constituency, but of course if you live overseas you’re unlikely to be able to able to do this. If you want to vote by post, please check that you will have sufficient time to receive and return your postal ballot pack. Postal votes will usually be dispatched a few weeks before polling day. For your postal vote to count, it needs to be received back by the Returning Officer by 10pm on 7 May 2015. If you live a very long way away it may be that a proxy vote would provide a good alternative.

Whichever method you choose to vote, you won’t be able to take part unless you’ve registered. That’s why the Electoral Commission is committed to spreading the message to overseas voters. We want to ensure that everyone who is eligible to take part in the General Election has the opportunity to do so.

Even if you now live outside the UK, you’re not too far away to take part and have your say at the UK General Election, so make sure you register well ahead of the registration deadline on Monday 20 April 2015.

Go online now to register at http://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and don’t forget to let others know too and pass the message on.

Alex Robertson
Director of Communications

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24 Responses to UK citizens living overseas – Don’t miss out, you may be able to vote at the 2015 General Election

  1. I’m trying to register, but when entering my old postcode (HA4 OHN) South Ruislip, Middlesex, it says code unknown, help please.

  2. Susan Pritchard says:

    When trying to register it will not except my old post code, SW17 OJX

  3. Maureen Toll says:

    My Husband and myself would dearly like to vote but because we have been in Malta for 17 years, retired, we were informed by the High Wycombe District Council that we were no longer eligible to vote in the UK. We pay taxes in the UK being taxed at source so why not. We are totally unable to vote in the UK or in Malta. Seems very strange to us that we do not have a say in our country of origin. Yes we pensioners are miffed at the WFA being taken away. We paid for that and we are still paying and I might add that Malta is not that warm in the winter, hailstones enough for children to play in and very cold properties as they are built to keep the heat out. It costs approximately €36 per week when needed during daylight hours two keep to portable gas fires burning plus extra on electric radiators or other electric fires if affordable. We are not all rich retirees, we live on pensions and rent a property. We are not all multi millionaires living in villas. So yes, give us the opportunity to vote. Might be nice if some politians were to spend a week in a property during Dec, Jan, Feb, March and sometimes later than that to back up their excuse of temperatures instead of using statistics only. Perhaps when it comes down to it, do you really want us to participate or is it just paper talk and something that is thought to have to be voiced.

    • Patsy says:

      One of the things many of us don’t really think about when we move abroad is voting. After all, we’ve left the country and the politics of the UK don’t affect us much. And if you’ve been away and not registered to vote for more than 15 years then you have no say at all.
      Unfortunately, you have no say in the government of the country where you are living either. We live in Spain and can vote for our local council, and we can vote for the European members of parliament, but we are unable to vote for our regional or national government. So we are effectively disenfranchised.
      As there are something like 500,000 Brits living in Spain, and more than 10 million ex-pats around the world, this could represent a sizeable number of votes to a party that would be prepared to spend time looking after their interests.

      • Maureen Toll says:

        Yes, Patsy, the same applies here in Malta. We have no say in Governmental elections but can vote in the European and the local Council elections. We have approximately 10,000 British Expats living in Malta and some very restless ones in regard to the voting.
        Also the Winter Fuel Allowance which has raised many hackles. This year the winter is even colder than last with lots of wind, rain and hail. Did you know that there is an e petition reference this. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/73368
        Unfortunately, it appears that if we leave the UK we are basically being ignored even though we have all worked and paid our dues, and as I said previously in a lot of cases are still doing so as we are taxed at source.

  4. And what happens after 15 years? I’ve been living in Spain for 11 years now and voting in every election. However, when the 15 years end I won’t be eligible to vote either here or back in the UK. I will effectively be disenfranchised. In the 21st century. Who can I contact about this?
    Many thanks

    • scottishwildcat13 says:

      Why should you be able to vote in a country you haven’t cared to live in for the past 15 years? If you’re that concerned about what happens there, move back.

    • Thanks for your comment. The Commission does not comment on the definition of the franchise which – as a constitutional issue – is a matter for Government and, ultimately, Parliament to decide upon. Questions on such matters would be best directed to the Electoral Policy Division in the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for electoral legislation including the franchise. The Cabinet Office can be contacted as follows:

      Cabinet Office
      Treasury Building
      1 Horse Guards Road,
      London
      SW1A 2HQ

  5. mr whiskers says:

    Dennis, I imagine that post code should read HA4 0HN not HA4 OHN. That “oh” should be a “zero”. best wishes

  6. Pingback: Cross-Party Expat Support for Right to Vote | Votes for Expat Brits blog

  7. Caroline Carrington says:

    I was raised to consider it a duty and a right to a vote. I am concerned that the methods available effectively take away ones right to vote. The postal vote will not allow for a slow postal service and I cannot find or ask anyone to vote on my behalf by proxy (I find it abhorrent in principal that I will lose my right to a secret vote). How is this permitted. Why like other countries do we not have overseas voting stations at embassies. Does the UK not value it’s citizens living abroad? How can this be challenged? Are their any lobbying groups?

  8. Is there any way of registering to vote for the first time whilst abroad? I’ve been away for under 2 years but have never been registered to vote.

    Cheers

    • Thanks for your comment. You can register as an overseas voter if you are a British citizen and you have been on a UK electoral register at any time within the past 15 years. You cannot register if you have never been registered as an elector in the UK. However, if you left the UK before you were 18 years of age you can register at your parents’ or guardians’ address, providing that you left the country no more than 15 years ago.

  9. David says:

    II have been living in France for the past 10 years and have registered to vote but have not received my ballot paper. There is only one week to go and I’m getting really worried. Is this normal?

    • Hi David,

      Postal ballot papers are usually sent out about a week before polling day but it can be as little as 4 days.

      To check when they are being sent out you will need to contact your electoral registration office. Contact details can be found by visiting http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk and inputting your last UK postcode when prompted

      • As per my reply below. Isn’t the Electoral Commission’s campaign to get overseas voters to register to vote pointless if ballot papers are sent out “4 days” before the poll? There’s no way this would be enough time. Frustratingly, the advice on the About My Vote website says: “You need to make sure you have time to receive and return your ballot papers by polling day” — the statement makes it sound as if overseas voters have control over the time the ballot papers are mailed. But you can register as early as you want, and it makes no difference if papers are only mailed 4 days before election day. For all the encouragement of overseas voters to participate, it’s pretty pointless if the administration of sending overseas voters ballot papers in effect disenfranchises them,

  10. My experience of registering to vote for the first time from overseas has so far not been good. My wife and I both registered to vote electronically in Oct last year. A confirmation email and number was provided. Several months went by and I followed up with the electoral registration office (which took a while since the contact details provided in the auto-reply were wrong). They were unable to find any record of those reference numbers. The first person I spoke to told me I would only be able to vote if I were a student living overseas. He then went away and confirmed I could vote but would need to send a PDF version of the form direct to him. I did this. We then received 4-5 versions of the same letter confirming the application had been received. But then my wife received a phone call to say although her name was on the electoral register she would not be able to be able to vote because her name did not correspond with the name registered with the Department of Work and Pensions.She was then asked to fill in the form again with her maiden name in the box “Were you registered to vote under a previous name?”. Actually, she never was registered to vote under a previous name, only her married name. When I pointed this out, I was told I was probably using the wrong form as there was definitely a box for stating your maiden name. I’ve checked all the forms and there is no such box. I’m wondering how many women this has disenfranchised because the form does not ask the right question? There needs to be a box requesting maiden name, not “were you registered to vote under a maiden name,.” So I completed that box, and received a letter saying it was now registered. But it is not 4 days before the election and no postal ballot has been received. I have read ballot papers will not typically get sent till a week before an election. This is an impossible timeframe to receive and reply from overseas by election day. So my final point is — what’s even the point of encouraging overseas electors to register and vote when there is no attempt at sending ballot papers in a timely manner? All told, the experience has been one that shows little effort at enabling overseas voters to exercise their legal right to vote.

  11. Rachel says:

    I have also registered to vote but haven’t received a ballot paper. Like an earlier poster, I too believe it is both my right and responsibility to vote and this has now been taken from me. Very disappointing.

  12. Claire says:

    I live in Spain and registered last October and got a confirmation email (Ref 5C3C0C) but no papers ever arrived. I’ve been disenfranchised!

  13. Thanks to those who have highlighted the issues with overseas postal votes.

    Our guidance to electoral administrators is clear that postal votes sent to overseas electors should be prioritised to allow the maximum time for them to be returned.

    We are aware that some overseas voters have raised concerns that they are yet to receive their postal ballot packs and we will look carefully at the evidence shared with us on this when we consider what issues to raise in our statutory election report, which will be laid in the UK parliament in the summer.

    If you wish to make a complaint about this specific issue, you will need to direct it to the Returning Officer at your local authority.

    please email info@electoralcommission.org.uk for more information.

  14. Giles says:

    When will the ballot papers for the EU referendum be sent out? I registered a while back to vote but 1 week is not nearly enough for a return post from the USA.

    • Ballot papers will be sent to all eligible electors resident overseas that are on the register in time for the first despatch, between 23 and 27 May. Those that apply to register at a later date will be sent ballot papers after their registration is confirmed. To ensure that there is sufficient time to receive ballot papers and make absent voting arrangements it is sensible to register to vote at the earliest opportunity.

      It is also worth considering appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf as a proxy. Read more about that here: http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/how-do-i-vote/voting-by-proxy

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