Long-awaited details on how to re-register to vote in the UK have been published for citizens who have been living overseas for more than 15 years.
Regulations are due to come into force on January 16 and will affect around three million people worldwide, including many in France, who had lost their right to vote.
Those UK citizens should be able to apply via a revamped online process before the end of January, in time for the next UK general election, which is likely to be in spring or autumn.
Do not assume you are on the electoral register
Groups supporting Britons in France also advise those who have not lost their voting right under the former 15-year limit, and have not yet registered, to do so now on the UK government website.
Do not assume you are still on the register – up to now, annual renewal has been required for people overseas, though this is changing to every three years.
Election officials now know how to re-register overseas voters
Jenny Shorten, president of LibDems in France, said: “We’ve been told by several election administrators in the UK that they are expecting quite a rush when the new process opens.
“Britons who have not been away for more than 15 years and are not registered should do so before the new year.”
Photo: Jenny Shorten is president of LibDems in France; Credit: Jenny Shorten
The new regulations, currently going through final checks, set out details about how UK nationals can re-register following the Elections Act 2022.
Ms Shorten said they give elections officials the details needed to finalise forms and other admin and their publication is “a relief”.
Who is being advised to re-register from mid-January?
- People who were registered in a UK constituency before moving abroad and who have been away for more than 15 years
- People who were too young to vote when they left the UK and whose parents or guardians were registered but left more than 15 years ago or were not registered
- Overseas British citizens who have lived in the UK at some point but never registered to vote
Who can register immediately?
If you fall into the following groups, you can register already:
- You were previously registered to vote and left less than 15 years ago
- You were too young to be registered but your parents or guardians were registered in the UK and you left the UK together less than 15 years ago
Britons who have never lived in the UK will not be able to vote.
How to register
Start preparing your documents, including making copies, scans or good quality photographs if you are applying online, which is recommended.
You will need your National Insurance number or a UK identity document, such as a UK passport – even an expired one might be acceptable.
If applying now, you need to supply the address where you or your parent/guardian were last registered to vote.
What is needed if you cannot register until January?
If you were previously registered in a UK constituency, you will need to give your address there, but if you left more than 15 years ago and have not since been registered as an overseas voter, records might be difficult to access.
If so, you should look for any documentary proof of your last UK address. This could include a:
- UK driving licence (even expired)
- Court document such as a grant of probate or letters of administration; a letter from the Office of the Public Guardian confirming the registration of a lasting power of attorney
- Letter from HMRC
- Council tax demand letter or statement
- Rent book issued by local council; statement of benefits or entitlement to them; letter from the DWP confirming entitlement to a state pension
- Letter from a school, college or university confirming attendance or the offer of a place, or a letter from the Student Loans Company
- Official copy of the land register entry for the relevant address or other proof of ownership, such as a solicitor’s letter confirming purchase
- Form P45 or P60, or a reference or payslip issued by a UK employer
- Bank passbook or statement, or a letter from a bank confirming the opening of an account, or a credit card statement
- Utility or mobile phone bill, or letter from an insurance company
What if you do not have any documents?
If all else fails – for example, because you left the UK as a child and never had such documents – the regulations say that local council officers can ask for an ‘attestation of previous residence’.
It is unclear on the website if providing this upfront will be an option.
The attestation will be a signed statement that you used to live at a named UK address, giving an indication of the dates when, to the best of the attestor’s knowledge, you lived there.
Attestors should be UK electors and of ‘good standing in the community’, unless overseas electors. They can do this for only two people.
Ms Shorten said it is so far unclear if a person’s ‘good standing in the community’ is meant to relate to the constituency where you will vote.
Postal vote delays remain a concern
The opportunity to deal with the postal voting delays from which people suffer “has not been fully grasped” in the regulations, she added.
The government has promised it will prioritise sending overseas ballots but intends to go on providing ‘business reply’ envelopes for return, which are not always familiar to French post offices.
It also remains likely that time will be too tight once again for some Britons abroad to be sure of their ballot arriving on time, Ms Shorten said.
She advises the proxy option. It has been promised that this will now be easier to select online at the same time as registering to vote.
A proxy does not have to live in the constituency where you will vote, because it is possible to ask for a proxy vote by post.
They must be a UK voter, and, according to the new rules, should not be a proxy for more than four people overseas.