To tie in with vote registration day last month (4 Feb 2016), the consular services at the British Embassy passed on the information below. Its message has proven to be that many people are not aware of their eligibility to vote. Through the website that I help to run (vienna-expats.at) I have passed on the message, as well as sharing the information through various Facebook groups. It seems that as with the Swiss referendum, the key is to increase awareness among eligible voters – the ten pointers below are doing the rounds among expat circles here in Vienna and one of the features of their voter information round robin is the abiding message to spread the word – a sort of electoral evangelism.
In particular, make sure that other people find out too – spread the word using the hashtags: #passthemessageon #expat #yourvotematters
- UK nationals who have been registered to vote in the UK within the last 15 years can register as an overseas elector, to be able to vote in UK Parliamentary General Elections, UK-wide referendums, and European Parliamentary elections.
- 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!
- Overseas Voter Registration Day was on Thursday 4 February 2016 – take five minutes to visit the online registration site, and let others know too. This was a day of activity to encourage voter registration amongst UK nationals living overseas, led by the UK Electoral Commission and supported by expat community hubs and embassies and consulates from around the world.
- You can apply to register to vote in five minutes at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
- With the date of the referendum as yet unknown, it’s best to register sooner rather than later so you can be sure you’re registered in time. It is important to remember if you are not registered you can’t vote in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union when it takes place.
- You will need to know your National Insurance number and date of birth, and have your passport to hand if you have one. If you don’t have a National Insurance number you can still register, but you may have to supply more information to show who you are.
- If you can’t or don’t want to register online here; https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote, you can still download and post back paper forms here; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/voter-registration-forms-paper-versions. But remember to return your completed form as far in advance of the deadline as possible. The actual deadlines for registering to vote and applying for an absent vote will be set once the date of the referendum is known.
- You have to sign an annual declaration once you are registered to renew your registration every year. So if you were registered to vote for the 2015 General Election you will have to renew your registration with your local Electoral Registration Officer in the UK or register again.
- You can choose how you wish to vote. You can vote by post, by proxy (voting by appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf), or even in person at your polling station.
- Lots of UK citizens who live overseas might not know that they are still eligible to vote. Pass the message on that your vote matters! #passthemessageon #expat #yourvotematters