Voting method - United Kingdom

United Kingdom
Voting method
Postal Proxy

Overseas voters, Standard Note:SN/PC/05923

Overseas voters areable to vote in the referendum on the voting system on 5 May 2011; thefranchise for the referendum is the UK Parliamentary franchise and peers. TheElectoral Commission issued a press release on 2 March 2011 to remind Britishcitizens living overseas that the deadline to register to vote is 14 April2011:

On Thursday 5 May,many British citizens living abroad will have the opportunity to vote in thefirst UK-wide referendum in 35 years. But they need to act now, says theElectoral Commission, the independent UK elections watchdog.

Electoral CommissionHead of Campaigns, Clinton Proud says: “The referendum gives voters the chanceto have their say on how MPs are elected to the House of Commons. In order tovote, you will need to be on the electoral register. We know that many of the5.5million British citizens living abroad are eligible to vote, but are notregistered.

“Distance doesn’tmean you can’t make your voice heard. You can apply to vote by post or byproxy, and the forms to do this, and to register to vote, are all available onour website: The deadline to register is Thursday 14April - so now is the time to act.”

The ElectoralCommission is responsible for the conduct of the referendum on 5 May, and hasinstructed Counting Officers in Britainto send out ballot papers to voters overseas as early as possible after 14April.

The Commission added that postal ballot papers will be sent to overseasvoters by Royal Mail after 14 April and that overseas voters needed to returnthese by post in time for them to reach the relevant local returning officer by10pm on Thursday 5 May. The Commission suggested that overseas voters shouldconsider if this timetable was realistic for them, or whether they should applyto vote using a proxy instead.

(link of the press release:!)


Referendum on the voting system for UK parliamentaryelections Report on the May 2011 referendum, page 22

2.1 While the UK has a broadlegal framework for referendums, individual referendums cannot take place unlessspecific legislation is passed by Parliament. Secondary legislation may also beneeded to provide for the detailed arrangements and funding for referendums.


Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act2011

SCHEDULE 3 Section 3


Manner of voting inthe referendum

2 (1) This paragraphapplies to determine the manner of voting in Englandand Wales or Scotland of aperson entitled to vote in the referendum.

(2) The person mayvote in person at the polling station allotted to him or her under thereferendum rules, unless the person is entitled to vote by post or by proxy inthe referendum.

(3) The person mayvote by post if the person is entitled to vote by post in the referendum.

(4) If the person isentitled to vote by proxy in the referendum, the person may so vote unless,before a ballot paper has been issued for the person to vote by proxy, theperson applies at the polling station allotted to him or her under thereferendum rules for a ballot paper for the purpose of voting in person, inwhich case he or she may vote in person there.

Overseas voters, Standard Note:SN/PC/05923

Before 1985 British citizens resident outside the United Kingdom were unable toregister to vote in UK Parliamentary elections. The Representation of thePeople Act 1985 extended the franchise to British citizens resident outside theUKand enabled them to register as ‘overseas voters’ in the constituency for whichthey were last registered. This was initially for a period of 5 years, laterextended to 20 years by the Representation of the People Act 1989, and thenreduced to 15 years by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act2000.


Overseas voters cannot register to vote if they have never beenregistered as a voter in the UK although if a voter left the UK before he was18 he can be registered at his parents' or guardians' address provided that heleft the UK no more than 15 years ago.

Overseas voters have to register to vote each year in the same way asvoters living in the UK.The first time an overseas voter makes an application to be included on theregister his declaration that he is living overseas must also be accompanied byan attestation by a British citizen. The Electoral Registration Officer willsend the overseas voter a renewal form each year until the end of the 15 yearperiod. Overseas voters can vote by post or proxy, or in person at theirallotted polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. TheElectoral Commission recommends that overseas voters should consider appointinga proxy to vote on their behalf because of the short period available to besent and return a postal vote overseas.

If the overseas voter is serving in the armed forces, or is a Crownservant, there are different provisions for registering to vote as they are notsubject to the 15 year rule. Briefly, members of HM forces and their spousescan either register by means of a service declaration or can choose to beregistered as an ordinary elector instead. A service declaration is valid forfive years and then has to be renewed.7 Crown servants and British Councilemployees employed in a post outside the UK, together with their spouses,are also entitled to be registered for all elections and have to submit a CrownServant or British Council declaration with their application to register.


Every British citizen who has been registered to vote in the UK within the last 15 years is eligible to votein UK Parliamentary (general) elections and European Parliamentaryelections.


Report on the administration ofthe 2010 UKgeneral election

5.33 British citizens living overseas who had moved to another countrywithin the last 15 years, and who had previously been registered in the UK, could register to vote in the UK general election as an ‘overseasvoter’. Overseas voters could choose to vote by post or appoint a proxy.


Voting from Abroad:The International IDEA Handbook, page 100

British citizens living abroad are eligible to register and vote asoverseas electors if their name was previously on the electoral register for anaddress in the UK and no more than 15 years have passed between thequalification date of that register and the date on their application toregister as an overseas elector; or if they have reached the age of 18 whileliving abroad and they were too young to be on an electoral register before they left the UK and aparent or guardian was on the electoral register for the address at which theywere living on that date.