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3.5m Britons abroad urged to register to vote in UK elections

Campaigners call UK citizens living overseas to get on the electoral register after voting rights were reinstated

Over 21,000 Britons have applied to register since January 16 Pic: Tomas Marek / Shutterstock

Voter registration is now open for the first time for all adult Britons overseas who have lived in the UK at some point.

Over 21,000 Britons have applied to register since January 16 following the end of a rule limiting voting rights to 15 years after leaving the country.

The rule had long been opposed by campaigners such as Harry Shindler, who died last year aged 101.

Removing the 15-year limit has been a Conservative policy since the party's 2015 manifesto and The Connexion has been covering it since at least 2009.

Read more: Historic victory as UK voter registration opens to all Britons abroad

Next UK general election is expected this autumn

Campaigners urge people to register, as 3.5 million Bri­tons abroad are estimated to be eligible to vote in the next general election, expected this autumn – comparable numerically to 50 UK constituencies.

They must register in the constituency where they were last registered or, failing that, the last one where they lived. Renewal every three years will be needed to remain registered.

This is done on the government website and you should request a postal or proxy vote.

Read more: 6,000 Britons abroad register on first day as 15-year rule ends

Have a say on the issues you care about

British in Europe (BiE) co-chair Jane Golding said: “Vo­ting is a basic citizenship right and this is a historic win for the British diaspora, which, in itself, is a reason to use the vote. 

“We advise that once you register, you write to the MP or candidates for your constituency, and ask what they will do about the issues you care about.”

Justine Wallington (left), co-chair of the Rift group for Britons in France, explained her reasons for registering: “I have a spouse from the US and couldn’t meet the new higher income requirements for British citizens who wish to live with their foreign spouses in the UK.

“Additionally, I have an elderly father in the UK who may require my care, or access to a suitable nursing facility. I also have investments and pensions that I want to have a say on.”

University fees is another key issue for many overseas families.

How to register

Before 2015, registered overseas voters were always below 35,000, but this rocketed up in 2017 when 285,000 people registered for the elections after a publicity campaign and the start of online registrations.

A 2020 Sussex University study contradicted the image of the Briton abroad as a Con­servative voter, finding that only 6% of 3,200 Britons in the EU polled said they voted for the party in 2019. Many had switched to Labour or the Lib Dems, with Brexit being a major factor.

Read more: Details released on how Britons abroad can re-register to vote in UK

To register, you need your Bri­tish NI number (if you have lost this click here) or other ID, such as a scan of a current or expired UK passport. 

There is a fallback option of an ‘attestation’ from a UK-regis­tered voter that you are who you say you are.

You also need to prove you have formerly been registered to vote in a UK constituency, or have lived in one. 

If you were registered up to around 2009, it might still be easy for electoral registration officers to identify you. An old electoral roll document may suffice if not.

Otherwise, show a document with a UK ad­dress, date and your name. It is also possible to use an ‘attestor’ for this. For a full list of eligible documents see page 14 of the legislation.

Previously, there have been issues with receiving postal ballots in time. 

BiE, therefore, recommends naming a registered voter in the UK as a proxy. If they do not live in the relevant constituency, it is possible to ask for a postal proxy, where they post your ballot for you in the UK.

Americans can also vote in the US elections from France. We explain how here.

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