How to vote in the British election

19th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

Tony Blair is widely tipped to call a General Election in Britain this year. So how can British expats make sure their voice is heard? Here's a guide.

Can British expats vote from abroad?

Expats are entitled to vote in British General Elections for up to 15 years after moving abroad. However, you must have been registered to vote in the UK within that period.


If you have not registered in Britain within the last 15 years, it's too late to register as an overseas voter. The only exception is if you were too young to vote when you left Britain - you left before you were 18 years of age. If that's the case, you can register to vote with the local council where your parents or guardian lived, providing you left the country no more than 15 years ago.

Expats can vote in the British General Election and European Union Elections. But you cannot vote in local elections.

How to register to vote

Fill out the form, which can be downloaded from The Electoral Commission at

Sign the declaration, and have someone witness that signature.


Return the completed form to the electoral registration office for the address you were last registered to vote in the UK. You can find the address of your office at: In Northern Ireland, see

You're advised to register as soon as you can -pundits predict the election to be as soon as May.

How to vote

You can vote in one of three ways.

By post: Your ballot paper will be sent to you in the mail about a week before the election. You therefore need to make sure you can return it to Britain in time — it must be received by 10pm on election day. If it's too late, it won't be counted. If you are in doubt that you will be able to return the paper in time, it would be better to vote by proxy (see below). You must fill in an application form to vote by post. The form can be downloaded at Return the form to the electoral registration office at which you are registered. (In Northern Ireland, see

By proxy: You can ask someone else to vote on your behalf. This person must be aged 18 or over, a British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen and be living in the UK. Your proxy can either vote at the polling station for the area where you are registered, or by post. You need to fill in a form to appoint a proxy. The form can be downloaded from (In Northern Ireland, see The electoral registration office at which you are registered must receive the form at least six working days before the election.

In person: If you are in the UK on election day, you can vote in person. But you can only vote at the polling station at which you are registered. You cannot vote at your local embassy or consulate. And you cannot vote in person if you or your proxy have applied to vote by post. If you have appointed a proxy, you can still vote in person, provided your proxy has not already voted.

Service and Crown personnel

If you are serving abroad with the armed forces or for the British government, you should complete an annual service declaration from your service unit or electoral registration officers. You then need to register at the UK address where you last lived or would be living if you were still in the UK. For more information, see:

More information


January 2005

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: British expats, overseas voting, British election

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