How can British citizens living overseas take part in the 2017 UK general election?


Whether you can vote, whether you can’t vote – as a British citizen there is always a role to play in a UK general election. It’s just a matter of figuring out what is the right balance for you.

First you need to know how the rules to formally take part apply to you, then you should understand what else you can do to take part. Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about the process of voting abroad as a British citizen.
 

Are you eligible?


As of 2017, UK citizens retain the right to vote for 15 years after they leave the UK. This is based on the last time that you were registered to vote at a UK address. You can find out more about the requirements at the UK Electoral CCommission  
 

Have you got your voter registration paperwork in order?


As a British expat, the 2017 rules require you to renew your voter registration annually.  So once you have submitted your voter registration application, you will need to renew this each year in order to stay on the electoral roll.  In addition, if you want to vote by post or proxy you need to submit a separate application for this.  
 
A lot of electoral offices are proactive and will contact you each year to confirm your voter registration renewal – some by email, some by letter. When you confirm your renewal, you should take the opportunity to check if your postal or proxy options are still on your file. You should always contact your local electoral office with any questions about your voter registration and options for voting.
 

Do you know who you can vote for?


When you live overseas you don’t get those candidate flyers clogging up your doormats, so how do you know who you can vote for?  Firstly, you are bound to vote in the last constituency you were registered in before you moved overseas. You can contact your local electoral office or check their website for candidate information.  
 
Alternatively, at citizns.eu you can enter the UK postcode of the last place you were registered to vote to find information about your constituency, and which candidate are standing for election, as well as links to further information about each of them.
 

What if you can’t vote?  


If you can’t vote, you still have an important role to play in raising awareness of the issues that you care about.  Political issues is often a taboo subject in British conversation – here are some things you can do to break that taboo, take part and help improve democracy in the UK:
  • Talk to your friends, family and co-workers about issues you care about
  • Share articles and opinions through social media that share your aspirations
  • Join a political party, a non-political group or an expat lobbying group to help you raise your voice on issues that are important to you
  • Write to your candidates, or after June 8th your MP
  • Until Brexit negotiations are concluded, you can also contact your UK or local MEP
 

Is there a change on the horizon for overseas voter regulations?


Maybe. In 2015 the Conservatives were elected on a mandate that committed to changing the law and giving UK expats a vote for life. Some progress was made before the 2017 election was called when ultimately there was too little time left for the parliament to debate the change in law before it was dissolved, so the proposals were cast aside. There is real hope, though, as a coalition of expat lobbying groups will continue to argue for this change to be taken up by the next UK government.


 

Julia Fallon is a UK citizen living in Amsterdam with her family. She tweets as @expatjulia and is the founder of citizns.eu – an online resource dedicated to helping expats connect with the people elected to represent them.

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