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Last chance for Brits in France to register to vote in the UK election

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Last chance for Brits in France to register to vote in the UK election
Make sure your voice is heard in the 'Brexit elections'. Photo: AFP
10:47 CET+01:00
British people living in France and around Europe have just one day left to register to vote for what is being described as "the most important election in a generation".

While many long-term residents of France will not be eligible due to the 15-year rule, anyone who has lived here less than 15 years is still entitled to vote in the general election in the UK on December 12th.

READ ALSO Abandoned and angry: How Britons in France feel at being denied a vote in the December election

With Brexit still dominating the political conversation in the UK, the general view is that the future rights of Britons living in the EU - and indeed their futures in general - will depend on who wins the next general election.

That's because the outcome of Brexit is still undecided.

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants a big majority to get his Brexit deal through parliament, opposition parties like Labour and the Liberal Democrats favour a second referendum or even cancelling Brexit altogether.

So Britons living in the EU are being urged to make sure they are registered to vote if they can.

Although there an estimated 5.5 million Brits living abroad in December 2013 - including 1.2 million in the EU - there were only 26,000 registered to vote.

After a campaign by the Electoral Commission that figure had increased to 264,000 by 2016.

So what do I need to do?

The first step to voting in any election in the UK is to make sure you are on the electoral roll or register. You can register to vote up to 12 working days before a general election.

That means that for this election, registration closes on Tuesday, November 26th.

You can do that online by visiting https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

You'll need certain information like your National Insurance number and your previous address as well as your passport number. But the process only takes a few minutes.

Note you will also be expected to say when you left the UK, which is important given the 15 year rule around voting. While you might be tempted to shift the dates to be able to vote, you are warned that the information you give must be truthful.

One thing to note is that you will be registered in the constituency where you last voted (or were last registered) rather than for example your home town.

Overseas voters need to re-register on the electoral roll every year so many voters end up falling off it in between elections without realising, even though reminders are meant to be sent out. You can contact your local electoral office to find out your status.

Proxy versus postal?

When you register as an overseas voter you will be asked whether you want to vote by proxy (in other words get someone you trust to vote for you) or by post. You can also vote in person by returning to the UK although that's unlikely to be possible for most people.

The question of proxy or post is increasingly important, as current conversations on online forums will attest.

There have been numerous problems around postal voting in recent elections not least May's European elections when scores of Brits in the EU saw their votes go uncounted.

British residents living in the EU have since been warned by local councils that proxy voting would be more reliable.

Your proxy can be anyone, it doesn't have to be a relative, although they will need to vote in the constituency you are registered in, rather than where they live (although they can postal vote, see below).

To apply for a proxy vote you need to download and send in this form to your former local electoral office by either email or post. Your application needs to be in 11 working days before the election - Wednesday, December 27th.

Once you register them as your proxy, they will be sent a card telling them where exactly they need to go.

You'll need to also make sure your proxy voter is not casting ballots for others either as one voter is only entitled to cast ballots for TWO other people.

Note that local political parties offer to organise proxy voters for you if you are struggling to find one.

And not essential, but maybe good for your peace of mind - try not to choose a proxy with diametrically opposite political views to yours unless you fancy endless arguments.

If you are registered to vote and still prefer to apply for a postal vote then you can print and fill out this form and send it to your electoral registration office. To find out more visit www.yourvotematters.co.uk

Proxy vote by post

If your proxy cannot get to your voting station - for example if they live in a different area - then they can also send in the ballot by post for you, although then you are relying on the post once again.

"If your proxy cannot get to the polling station, they can apply to vote for you by post.

"They can apply to do this by 5pm, 11 working days before the poll. They can contact the electoral registration office for more details and to request a further application form," reads the information from the government.

It's basically a two step process - first you register the person as your proxy, then once they get your polling card, they then apply to postal vote on your behalf.

Their application for a postal vote must arrive 11 working days before the poll - by Wednesday, November 27th.

Note that your actual ballot - wherever it is posted from - must arrive at your polling station by 10pm by polling day.

 
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