The UK is just weeks away from another general election and this one might matter more than most to Britons living abroad, especially those in the EU.
The general view is that the future rights of Britons living in the EU – and indeed their futures in general – will depend on who wins the next general election.
That's because the outcome of Brexit is still undecided.
While PM Boris Johnson wants a big majority to get his Brexit deal through parliament, opposition parties like Labour and the Liberal Democrats favour a second referendum or even cancelling Brexit altogether.
So Britons living in the EU are being urged to make sure they are registered to vote, at least those who are eligible.
Tens of thousand of Brits will be denied a vote because they have lived outside the UK for over 15 years.
But many more are simply not registered to vote.
Although there an estimated 5.5 million Brits living abroad in December 2013 – including 1.2 million in the EU – there were only 26,000 registered to vote.
After a campaign by the Electoral Commission that figure had increased to 264,000 by 2016.
So what do I need to do?
The first step to voting in any election in the UK is to make sure you are on the electoral roll or register. You can normally register to vote up to 12 days before a general election, after which the register closes.
You can do that online by visiting https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
You'll need certain information like your National Insurance number and your previous address as well as your passport number. But the process only takes a few minutes.
Note you will also be expected to say when you left the UK, which is important given the 15 year rule around voting. While you might be tempted to shift the dates to be able to vote, you are warned that the information you give must be truthful.
One thing to note is that you will be registered in the constituency where you last voted (or were last registered) rather than for example your home town.
Overseas voters need to re-register on the electoral roll every year so many voters end up falling off it in between elections without realising, even though reminders are meant to be sent out.
You can contact your local electoral office to find out your status.
Proxy versus postal?
When you register as an overseas voter you will be asked whether you want to vote by proxy (in other words get someone you trust to vote for you) or by post. You can also vote in person by returning to the UK although that's unlikely to be possible for most people.
The question of proxy or post is increasingly important, as current conversations on online forums will attest.
There have been numerous problems around postal voting in recent elections not least May's European elections when scores of Brits in the EU saw their votes go uncounted.
British resident living in the EU have been warned by local councils that proxy voting would be more reliable.
“If a snap election is called, the timetable for this election will be shorter than usual. Therefore there is a risk that overseas voters will not receive their postal ballot packs with enough time to return them to us by the close of poll,” read the text of a letter sent to one British voter in France from a London council.
“We wanted to make you aware of the risks and therefore encourage you to consider arranging a proxy vote instead.”
As a result, and due to the previous unreliability of postal voting, many Britons have concluded that it's better to register for proxy vote.
What you need to be aware of for a proxy vote is that it will be cast in the last constituency you lived in, so you will need to know someone living in that constituency who is registered to vote and who is willing to cast your ballot at the correct polling station. They will be sent a card telling them where exactly they need to go.
You'll need to also make sure your proxy voter is not casting ballots for others either as one voter is only entitled to cast ballots for TWO other people.
Note that local political parties offer to organise proxy voters for you if you are struggling to find one.
Proxy vote by post
Note that if your proxy cannot get to your voting station then they can also send in the ballot by post for you, although then you are relying on the post once again.
“If your proxy cannot get to the polling station, they can apply to vote for you by post. They can apply to do this by 5pm, 11 working days before the poll. They can contact the electoral registration office for more details and to request a further application form,” reads the information from the government.
It's basically a two step process and the advice is to get in touch with your Electoral Registration Office who can help you sort this out.
To apply for a proxy vote you need to download and send in this form to your former local electoral office by either email or post.
The application must arrive six working days before the poll.
If you are registered to vote and still prefer to apply for a postal vote then you can print and fill out this form and send it to your electoral registration office. To find out more visit www.yourvotematters.co.uk
Note that your application to register for a postal vote must arrive at the electoral office 12 days before the vote and your actual ballot must arrive by polling day, which unfortunately has not always been the case.
If you have any further questions or points to make about voting from overseas please contact us at [email protected]
“Tens of thousand of Brits will be denied a vote because they have lived outside the UK for over 15 years.”
So where’s this so called democracy the readers of the British guttersnipe press are always screaming about?
Thanks The Local for your unbias reporting. Auto renew cancelled.Adios.
Where js tge bias in this? Adios , you wont be missed!
Ridiculous that we, the most affected, have no vote. We have, legally, lived and worked in France (twice), Spain and Belgium (three times) and have been resident, since 1999, in France. We have long-term cartes de séjours, but still risk losing our freedom of movement within the EU.
No idea where the two previous, illiterate, comments are coming from