A survey of UK citizens living overseas carried out by the UK Electoral Commission has found that half of respondents don’t know that they can now register online to vote in the UK.
To make sure that British expats are #ReferendumReady, the elections watchdog is reminding them that it’s possible to apply in just a few minutes at Register to vote. Before online registration became available in 2014, applicants had to complete a paper application and post it back to their local electoral office. It is now possible to complete an application online in five minutes with just your National Insurance number and passport to hand, which also removes the need for overseas voters to provide an attestation when these details are provided.
To register as an overseas voter, UK residents overseas must have previously been registered in a UK constituency within the last 15 years. Anyone who is unsure if they are registered to vote should contact their last UK local authority to check their status.
The Commission is calling on expats to register to vote by 16 May if they want to vote by post in the EU Referendum. This is so they have enough time to receive and return their postal ballot. They don’t even need to wait for their registration to be confirmed before choosing how they wish to vote. Expats 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 postal votes will be sent out earlier than usual, giving overseas voters further time to receive, complete, and return their ballot pack to the UK. However anyone who doesn’t think they can return postal vote papers in time or is applying after 16 May should consider voting by proxy.
Caroline Wilson, British Consul General to Hong Kong and Macao said:
The Electoral Commission’s survey shows that many British expats, including in Hong Kong, might not know that they could be eligible to vote in the EU Referendum on 23 June. It’s easier than ever to take the first step by going online to check your eligibility and register. Over 140,000 UK citizens living overseas have already applied since the start of this year.
I urge any UK nationals living in Hong Kong who are yet to register to get #ReferendumReady by visiting www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and register to vote by 16 May.
The Commission’s survey of UK expats was aimed at gaining an understanding of their knowledge of and attitude towards their voting rights but was not designed to be representative of the estimated 5.5 million UK citizens living overseas.
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.
To register to vote, UK citizens should visit Register to vote.