If you have been on the electoral roll in the UK within the last 15 years, then you can register to vote in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. The British Ambassador Simon Manley this week launched a major campaign to make expatriates aware that they may be eligible to have their say in the EU referendum – provided they register to vote in good time.
Speaking at a meeting with representatives of the expatriate community to launch the registration campaign, Manley said:“Interest among expats in the EU referendum is high, but awareness that you may be able to vote is low. We want as many expats as possible to be aware that they can have their say. You can register to vote in a few minutes via the government website - www.gov.uk - and do encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do the same.”
The British Embassy in Madrid is backing a global campaign by the Electoral Commission to encourage Britons who live overseas to register to vote. Some 283,000 Britons are registered on the padrón as resident in Spain, but just 11,000 are registered to vote in the UK. So the vast majority of expats will miss out on having their say in the referendum – unless they take a few simple steps.
To register as an overseas voter, you must have been registered in a UK constituency within the last 15 years. All you have to do is visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote with your passport details and National Insurance number to hand, and the postcode of where you last lived in the UK. You can choose how you want to vote: by post, by proxy (voting by appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf), or even in person if by chance you will be in your UK local authority area on polling day. All it takes is five minutes to register. And because overseas voters must allow enough time for their ballot paper to be posted from the UK, you should do it now rather than wait for the final deadline, at which point it may be too late to use a postal vote effectively. Postal ballot papers will be despatched about a month ahead of the referendum - earlier than for the General Election last year - giving overseas voters more time to receive, complete, and return their ballot pack to the UK.
The Embassy is urging Brits to pass on the register to vote message via its ‘Brits living in Spain’ accounts on Facebook and Twitter, the expat media and a wide range of partners that work with the British Consulates in Spain. If you are active on Twitter then do tell others that #YourVoteMatters and add the URL http://bit.ly/1RGrh5H so that they can register too.