The UK Electoral Commission has launched a day of dedicated activity to encourage British citizens living overseas to register to vote ahead of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
To reach as many UK citizens living overseas, the elections watchdog is hosting Overseas Voter Registration Day on Thursday 4 February 2016 in a bid to boost the numbers of UK residents overseas on the UK’s electoral registers.
With the date of the referendum as yet unknown, the Commission is advising UK expats to register sooner rather than later so they can be sure they are registered in time. Expats can now register online to vote in just a few minutes at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
At the 2015 General Election there were almost 106,000 overseas electors on the register, three times the number that were on the register ahead of the previous general election in 2010 and the highest number of overseas voters registered ever. This is a fraction of the 5.5 million UK citizens estimated to be living overseas, and potentially eligible to vote at the EU Referendum.
To register as an overseas voter, UK residents overseas must have previously been registered in a UK constituency within the last 15 years. Once registered, overseas voters can then choose how they wish to vote. They can vote by post, by proxy (voting by appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf), or even in person at their polling station if they will be in their local authority area on polling day.
It should be easier to vote by post for this referendum as the timetable for postal votes has been extended to allow postal votes to be sent out even earlier than usual, giving overseas voters further time to receive, complete, and return their ballot pack to the UK.
Alex Robertson, Director of Communications at the Electoral Commission said:
A lot of people aren’t aware that it’s possible to register as an overseas voter for certain UK polls - UK Parliamentary General Elections, European Parliamentary elections and the upcoming EU Referendum. Many people are eligible to vote and now it’s easier than ever to take the first step by going online.
That’s why we are urging UK nationals who are now living abroad to take five minutes on Overseas Registration Day to visit https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and make sure they will be able to have their say at the EU Referendum when it takes place.
While Overseas Voter Registration Day is not the only day you can register, it is the perfect opportunity for everyone to encourage friends, family or colleagues to check if they can take part and ask them to go online to register from wherever they are in the world.