Back to Home Page

UK General Election 2010 

Voting from Overseas

One sure thing about the political calendar of 2010 is that there will be a General Election in the UK no later than 3rd June. Although this ultimate deadline seems some time away if you as an overseas voter want to make sure of being able to cast your vote then it would be wise to take the first steps now. Otherwise you may find you have not left yourself enough time to do so. The information here helps to explain what you need to do and  has been extracted from: http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.   This is an excellent source for any questions relating to your right to vote and is well worth a visit.


Who is Qualified?

Basically, British expatriates will be able to participate  if they have not been living abroad for more than 15 years.  There are several ways in which you can vote including direct participation, via a proxy or by postal vote.  The proxy vote is likely to be the most convenient for most overseas voters and so this is the method concentrated on in this article. Most importantly, there is the prerequisite of making sure you are on the electoral register and this applies to all methods of voting.    

 



The first thing, then, is to register as a voter:

Register to Vote

You must be on the electoral register to vote in elections. If you have a UK address and filled in the registration form delivered to your home last autumn, you should already be on the electoral register. But if you think you may not be registered, for example, if you have recently moved or been married, then you need to register to vote.

You can access an electoral registration form online at http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk. The guide tells you where to send your form. If you download you can fill in by hand and return to your local registration office.

There will be a deadline for returning your registration form to vote. If you are not on the electoral register, you can still register, but if you leave it too late you will not be able to vote. Please do not send your form to The Electoral Commission. Only your local electoral registration office, which will be at the council address of the area of your last UK home address, can add you to the register (see below for identifying your local area). The form has to be posted - email attachments are not accepted. However you can contact the Electoral Office by email. The usual format is electoral@townname.gov.uk. The normal postal address is: Electoral Registration Officer, Your Borough Council, Town Hall, xxxxxxx Street/Road, Town Name, Postal Code etc.

Who can register?
You can register to vote if you are a British citizen, if you are 16 or over and for overseas people if you have had a UK address in the last fifteen years. You cannot vote until your 18th birthday.

You can find more information on the Electoral Commission website : http://www.electoralcommission.gov.uk/home

Who has your personal details?


Your local electoral office has your personal details. There are two versions of the register – the full version and the edited version. Your details will appear on the full version of the register, but you can choose whether or not your details appear on the edited register. There is a check box on the registration form where you can indicate if you wish to be on the full version or the edited version. If you do check the box on the form, your name and address will only appear on the full register, which will only be used for certain lawful purposes, such as elections and referendums, law enforcement and checking applications for credit. If you do not check the box on the form, your name will also appear on the edited version of the register, which anyone can buy. This means anyone can use your details for any purpose.


Having registered you can now choose how to vote.

Vote by Proxy

Voting by proxy is a convenient way of voting if you are unable to get to the polling station. By proxy just means that you appoint someone you trust to vote on your behalf. This can be an individual or if you are a member of a political party you can get in touch with your local constituency / branch and make a proxy arrangement with them. Anyone can be your proxy as long as they are eligible to vote in that type of election and they are willing to vote on your behalf.

How do I apply for a proxy vote?

http://www.aboutmyvote.co.ukhow_do_i_vote/voting_by_proxy.aspx

You can apply for a proxy vote as long as you are on the electoral register. When you apply for a proxy vote you have to provide a reason. You can apply for a proxy vote if:

  • You are unable to go to the polling station for one particular election, for example, if you are away on holiday
  • You have a physical condition that means you cannot go to the polling station on election day
  • Your employment means that you cannot go to the polling station on election day
  • Your attendance on an educational course means that you cannot go to the polling station on election day
  • You are a British citizen living overseas

You can apply to vote by proxy for a particular election, for a set period of time or for all future elections. Proxy vote forms can be sent out to addresses in the UK and abroad.

You can apply for a permanent Proxy Vote at any time, however, you can only have one : 1) if you are registered Blind or receiving the Higher Rate of the mobility component of a Disability Living Allowance; or 2) if you suffer from Physical incapacity or illness; or 3) if this is due to your Employment.

If none of the above applies to you, then you can apply for a proxy vote only at each individual election.

You can access a proxy vote application form online at http://www.aboutmyvote.co.ukhow_do_i_vote/voting_by_proxy.aspx. The guide tells you where to send your form. If you download you can fill in by hand and return to your local registration office by post.

Your application form should be returned to your local electoral registration office.
The site http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk has a list of all local authorities which you can access alphabetically. Local authority websites take the format http://www.localgovtname.gov.uk and for the Electoral Office the email format is electoral@localgovtname.gov.uk.

When can I apply to vote by proxy?

The deadline for applying to vote by proxy is normally 6 working days before an election. However, if you have a medical emergency 6 days before election day or after, you can apply to vote by emergency proxy if the emergency means that you cannot go to the polling station in person

What happens after you've applied?

Your proxy must go to your local polling place to vote. If your proxy cannot get to the polling place, they can apply to vote for you by post. They can apply to do this up to 11 days before election day. Your electoral registration office can give you more details about this.

  • Your proxy will be sent a proxy poll card, telling them where and when to vote.
  •  You must let your proxy know how you want them to vote on your behalf, for example, which candidate or which party.
  • If you are able to go to the polling station on election day, you can still vote in person as long as your proxy has not already done so or has not applied to vote by post for you.  

Postal Voting

Postal votes generally are not suitable for overseas voters as they are usually sent out about a week before election day which is insufficient time for return by post. However, if for some reason this method is practicable and you want more information go to: http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/how_do_i_vote/voting_by_post.aspx where you will be able to download an application form.

Your application form should be returned to your local electoral registration office.
The site http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk has a list of all local authorities which you can access alphabetically Local authority websites take the format http://www.localgovtname.gov.uk and the Electoral Office the email format electoral@localgovtname.gov.uk

If you are not sure of your local authority, you can look this up by entering your postcode on: http://www.upmystreet.com/

Find out more at: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/home

Once you’ve received ballot paper, mark your vote and make sure you send it back so that it arrives by close of poll (which is 10pm on election day). If it arrives later than this your vote won’t be counted.

********

Postal vote forms in languages other than English are available on http://www.electoralcommission.gov.uk. Included are forms in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Somali, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese and Welsh (Audio tape and braille versions can also be obtained by phoning the Electoral Commission on 08702 416 479.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To get information on how to vote in general go to:
http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/how_do_i_vote.aspx
on proxy voting:
http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/how_do_i_vote/voting_by_proxy.aspx
on postal voting:
http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/how_do_i_vote/voting_by_post.aspx

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Organising Election Campaigns

For information about campaigning and organising election campaigns visit:

  • the members area of the Labour Party website: www.labour.org.uk or telephone your regional office. Contact details are included in this handbook.

John Mackay, Labour International Costa Blanca North