There are more than 5 million British citizens living abroad, but only a few thousand of these international movers have registered to vote in the upcoming UK general election, according to Electoral Commission, the UK’s independent elections watchdog.
British citizens living abroad can register as overseas voters if they have been registered to vote in the UK at any time within the past 15 years. Yet of the estimated 5.5 million British citizens living abroad, less than 13,000 overseas voters are currently on a UK electoral register.
Brits living overseas can vote by post or arrange for a proxy to vote for them in a UK Parliamentary election and the Commission has launched a campaign to encourage British citizens abroad to register to vote ahead of the next general election.
Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said:
“British citizens living abroad come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but we know that most maintain strong links with the UK. It is easier than ever before for British citizens abroad to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues back home and many will also want to have their say in elections.
“Anyone that wants to register should go to www.aboutmyvote.co.uk for more information and to download a registration form. But as an election can be called at short notice, they should do so now.”
A general election could be called at any time between now and June 2010, so the Commission is recommending that voters register as soon as possible. Voters can apply for a postal vote when they register, but for many people, especially those living outside Europe, the timescales involved will mean a proxy vote will be more appropriate
British citizens living abroad who have registered to vote in the UK at any time within the past 15 years can register as an overseas voter. If someone were too young to register when they left the UK, they can register in the last place their parent or guardian was registered.