The forthcoming elections on 5 May are for UK local and devolved government and the referendum on changing the voting system for electing MPs to the UK Parliament (Alternative Vote system).
The deadline for all new Service personnel registrations and changes to existing details is 14 April 2011.
Individuals may choose to register to vote in one of three ways:
• As a Service Voter - this option is open to all personnel (including spouses or civil partners) but particularly suitable for personnel posted overseas or likely to be posted abroad in the near future. Following the introduction of the Service Voters’ Registration Period Order 2010, Service Registration now lasts for five years. Those who register as Ordinary Voters or Overseas Voters will still have to renew their registration every year.
• As an Ordinary Voter - personnel based in the UK can register in the same way as ordinary electors by filling in and returning the annual canvass voter registration form. Ordinary Voters need to re-register annually.
• As an Overseas Voter - although registering as a Service Voter is the recommended option.
Service personnel and their spouses/civil partners who are overseas or away from their UK residence during an election may elect to vote either by post or proxy, whether they have chosen to register as Ordinary, Service or Overseas Voters. Voting by proxy is still the best option for those serving overseas.
For the 5 May elections and the referendum a similar initiative to that which ran for the elections in 2010 will be put in place to support the participation in voting for Service personnel in Afghanistan.
The Government has asked the Electoral Commission to produce special forms for military personnel, both those going out to Afghanistan and those already there, to fill out and register to vote.
The Ministry of Defence undertakes targeted activity to encourage troops to register to vote by proxy before they leave the UK and each person arriving in Afghanistan is briefed on the initiative.
Troops who fill out the form and request a postal vote are sent ballot forms via the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) and existing supply routes.
Once completed by the voters, the ballot papers will be returned to the UK and distributed to Returning Officers using a network of BFPO, Royal Mail and local authority support put in place for the initiative.
Returning Officers will be asked to prioritise all postal ballot packs heading for BFPO addresses, and those bound for Afghanistan will be transported there using existing logistics, to facilitate Service personnel participation.
Mark Harper, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, said:
The brave men and women in Afghanistan are fighting to defend democracy, so it seems only right that we make it as easy as possible for them to take part in the referendum on the voting system and their own elections at home.
I am pleased to be part of a joint effort by the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Defence, the BFPO, Rushmoor Borough Council [which will provide a central point for co-ordinating the initiative] and the Electoral Commission working together to ensure our Armed Forces have their say in how the country is run.
Commanding Officers of ships, units and stations should give Service personnel and their families’ assistance to register as voters through Unit Registration Officers.