By Ric Todd, British High Commissioner in Nicosia
At the 2015 General Election there were more overseas voters registered than ever. Almost 106,000 overseas electors registered to vote – three times the numbers that were on the register ahead of the previous general election in 2010. While this is a real improvement, it is still a fraction of the 5.5 million UK citizens estimated to be living overseas, and potentially eligible to vote at the EU Referendum.
This means millions of UK citizens living overseas could miss out on their chance take part in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union because they don’t know they are eligible to register to vote. That is why we are supporting the second ever Overseas Voter Registration Day on February 4 to let UK residents overseas know that many of them are eligible to vote and that it’s now easier than ever to take the first step by going online to register to vote.
With the date of the referendum as yet unknown, we are advising UK expats to register sooner rather than later so you can be sure you are registered in time. Expats can now register online to vote in just a few minutes at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote In fact, thousands of expats have already taken advantage of the new system in order to register.
If you can’t or don’t want to register online, you can still download and post back paper forms. But remember to return your completed form as far in advance of the deadline as possible. The actual deadlines for registering to vote and applying for an absent vote will be set once the date of the referendum is known. Once you’ve registered, you can choose how you wish to vote. You can vote by post, by proxy (voting by appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf), or even in person at your polling station.
To register as an overseas elector you must have been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years. You will also need to know your National Insurance number and date of birth, and have your passport to hand if you have one. If you don’t have a National Insurance number you can still register, but you may have to supply more information to show who you are.
If you were too young when you left the UK to have been registered, then you can register as an overseas voter if your parents (or guardians) were registered in the UK in the last 15 years.
Remember that Overseas Voter Registration Day is also the perfect opportunity for you to encourage friends, family or colleagues to check if they can take part and ask them to go online to register from wherever they are in the world. Pass the message on that your vote matters! #PassItOn #UKexpat #YourVoteMatters