How easy is it for expats to vote in the UK elction?
By
Gabrielle Procter

6 May 2010 - 10:19 AM  UPDATED 23 Aug 2013 - 2:09 PM

As the UK prepares for what could be one of the closest-run general elections in a generation, British citizens living abroad may well be galvanised to exercise their democratic right to vote, but how easy is it?

The UK Electoral Commission encourages expatriates to vote, but in the last election in 2005 only 18,000 votes were cast from abroad.

With the Foreign Office estimating there are close to nine million Brits living aborad, with around two and a half million eligible to vote, why aren't more votes cast?

British citizens who have lived abroad for no longer than 15 years can register to vote at the About My Vote website, by post or by proxy (where someone else is empowered to cast the vote).

Applications for a postal or proxy vote must be received no less than 11 days before an election and postal ballot papers must then be sent out no less than four working days before polling day.

But with ballot papers needing to be returned by the day of the election, the system would seem to fall down.

With most of the 2.5 m overseas voters living outside Europe, there is very little chance that voting papers will be received, let alone returned, in time to be counted.