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Voting in the UK for British Citizens

May 24, 2024

The General Election has been called for 4th July - you can now vote even if you live abroad

From 16 January 2024, the 15-rule no longer applies, so an estimated three and a half million UK nationals living outside the UK (including over a hundred thousand living in France) can now register to vote in UK general elections regardless of how long they have lived outside the UK.

YOU MUST REGISTER BEFORE 18TH JUNE IN ORDER TO VOTE.

Once you are registered, you may appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf. You must do this NO MORE THAN 6 WORKING DAYS BEFORE THE ELECTION. So by Wednedsay 26th June. Information on how to do this is given below.

HOWEVER - if your proxy does not live in proximity to the constituency in which you are registered, the proxy will need to apply for a postal vote. This must done NO LATER THAN WEDNESDAY 19TH JUNE - and so brings forward to the same date the limit for appointing your proxy.

SO, IN CONCLUSION, IF YOU HAVE NOT YET REGISTERED TO VOTE, DO IT NOW - and do not wait until 18th June, and register your proxy as soon as you receive confirmation of your registration.

 

To register on line, go to gov.uk/register-to-vote. You will need your UK national insurance number and the number and date and country of issue of your UK passport. The site takes you through a sequence of questions, asking where you now live, in what year you left the UK, what your last address was in the UK, what your present address is outside the UK, and so on. Answering the questions is usually quite easy. For example: when the site asks you whether you have previously been registered to vote in the UK, it lets you answer yes, no, or say that you are not sure. If you are unsure of your UK national insurance number or the postcode of your last address in the UK, it points you towards sources of this kind of information.

The site also offers applicants the opportunity to upload other documents from a long list, for example an old UK driving licence showing your last address in the UK.

The whole process takes around 5 to 10 minutes. Once you have submitted your application, a reference number is shown on your screen and is e-mailed to the e-mail address you provided. Your application is then forwarded to the UK local authority which is in charge of registering electors for the UK location which includes your last address in the UK.

That UK local authority will then contact you in due course, either to confirm your registration, or to ask for further information. This can be within a week, although certain constuencies have taken longer. However, we hope that with the General Election imminent, they will be diligent and get back to you quickly.

Assuming your registration is confirmed, they will highlight that your initial registration is for an "in person" vote. The letter will state that, as you are an overseas voter, it is recommended that you opt for a proxy vote. This is because they assume it is probably unlikely you will be in the constituency in which you are registered on the day of the vote, and the potential delays in the postal system - first for your voting papers to arrive at your address and second for your vote to reach the constituency - mean that proxy voting is their suggested option.

Information on how to vote by proxy is provided on the Electoral Commission website. Your proxy can either vote at your polling station (in which case it is recommended that the proxy live relatively close to your constituency) or your proxy can apply for a postal vote which makes the residential location of your proxy less restrictive. Your proxy must be registered to vote in the UK and can hold up to 4 proxy votes (of which a maximum of two can be proxies for UK residents).

If you do not know of a trusted person to whom you can give your proxy, you may wish to consider contacting the election office of the candidate you intend to vote for, and they should be able to provide you with the name of a person in the constituency who is willing to vote on your behalf for your preferred candidate:

Application for a proxy vote can be made online on the Gov.uk website. You must apply for a proxy vote no later than 6 working days prior to polling day.

Some overseas voters, already registered under the old 15-year rule, have recently received a notification from their local electoral office that their proxy appointment has expired. This is due to proxy appointments having a three-year validity period. It does not mean that the overseas voter cannot vote, it is only that it is necessary to renew the proxy appointment - or of course vote in person. The previous proxy can be reappointed as long as they are still UK resident and on the electoral roll.

An article in The Connexion dated 16 January 2024 is also attached and it The runs through what the major parties are saying to encourage us to register, and there is interesting additional information in the Labour International and Liberal Democrats Abroad sites.

Information can also be obtained on the official government website at gov.uk/voting-when-abroad.