Overseas voters urged to have their say in the UK general election

With the UK general election taking place on June 8th, it’s important to remember to register to vote if you can and want to have your say.

Overseas voters urged to have their say in the UK general election
Britain goes to the polls on June 8th. Photo: AFP

The UK Electoral Commission is urging all expats to check whether they are still are registered to vote and those who have not already done so to do so as soon as possible.

The registration deadline is May 22nd, but if you are intending to use a postal vote then the sooner the better to ensure that there is adequate time to receive and return postal ballot packs before polling day. 

Estimates show that there could be as many as 5.5 million UK citizens living abroad but just 263,903 overseas voters appeared on the UK electoral registers as of December 1st, 2016.

That number represented a huge leap (144.2 percent) on a year earlier as overseas voters registered to have their say in the EU referendum.

“In 2016 more UK citizens living abroad were registered to vote than ever before, but many others may be eligible to vote in the June general election,” Emma Hartley, Head of Campaigns at the Electoral Commission told The Local.

“Anyone living overseas who is eligible to vote in the UK should register now, and once registered should apply to vote by proxy so they can vote from outside the UK.”

Of course, not all Britons are eligible to vote due to the so-called '15-year rule' that prevents expats who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting in UK elections.

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But UK citizens who have been registered to vote in a UK constituency in the last 15 years may be eligible to register.

Even if you were too young to register when you left the UK, you can still register as an overseas voter, as long as a parent or guardian were registered to vote and you left the UK no more than 15 years ago.

An overseas registration is valid for 12 months, so if you took part in the Brexit referendum last June then you should still be registered and should check with your former council in the UK that your chosen voting method is still in place.

Your local Electoral Registration office should have sent you a reminder once your registration expired.

Overseas voters can choose to vote either by post or by proxy – where a trusted person is nominated to vote on behalf of another.

For the full guide on how to register, click here.

The deadline to register to vote is midnight on Monday May 22nd but don’t leave it until the last minute!


Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

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The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.