“Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to vote at the British Embassy in Vienna!”

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“Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to vote at the British Embassy in Vienna!”

After three days of the news breaking of the date for the referendum, I woke up in the middle of the night and took a look at a thread on the Facebook Group “British in Vienna and the Surrounding Areas” – a Facebook group which I try to hold at arm’s length, like many other Facebook groups, because of the some of the bizarre posts that pop up on a regular basis. The group means well – and is at least more level-headed than the toxic Foreigners in Vienna, but from time to time trolls surface. From one user’s very reasonable question about how/where can I vote in/from Vienna – a valid concern for many an Expat with a UK passport – the old chestnut of “Voting at the Embassy” popped up. Other countries may do this, but our electoral system does not make this a realistic prospect. I’d already had SMSes from three Expats asking or presuming that they woulld be able to vote at the embassy. My reply was as follows:

Sorry but why would it be nice to be able to vote at the embassy? Aside from a personal vanity issue of putting a cross in a box and placing your voting paper in person in slightly more salubrious surroundings than your average polling station, it makes no sense in economic or even logistical terms in the 21st century to have an option to vote in person at the embassy. There is no obligation to be registered at the embassy (and doing so involves added bureaucracy for the staff there) and given that you vote through your previous registered constituency in the UK for this referendum, as you would for a general election, if anything this approach would slow down the count, as unless a returning officer is sent out and a counting team in place, it just places extra burden on the system. It is not an efficient use of funds and manpower to administer in any case – do you really think it would increase people’s likelihood to vote if they say live in Dornbirn – or do you think they should submit a postal vote to the embassy in Vienna to have it sent to the UK? I would have some understanding for voting at the embassy if Austria were a country without a reliably functioning postal service and there were a snap election called, but otherwise the logistics behind ensuring that the correct voting papers were delivered for your constituency to the embassy is frankly pointless. It is clear (whether rightly or wrongly) that there is no intention to have any different rules in place relating to voting in the referendum to at a general election so even though in a simple yes/no style vote it would be more manageable than for a general election it is still not an efficient way to go about it. It is four months to the referendum – if you are eligible to vote, register to vote NOW, and use the online registration service.

Author: mdgb

45 years old, came to Austria in 97/98 for nine months and then moved permanently in July 2000. At the time of starting this blog, I have been in Austria for more than half my lifetime.