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British expats can vote either by post or by appointing a UK-based proxy to vote for them for up to 15 years after moving out of the country. Now, some local councils have written to overseas voters to urge them to choose the proxy option for the December 12 general election after problems with the postal vote became apparent earlier this year.
How can you apply to vote via proxy?
You can apply to vote via proxy using the Government application forms HERE .
You need to apply for a proxy vote by 5pm on Wednesday, December 4, for the upcoming snap election.
Or, for Northern Ireland, the deadline is 5pm on November 21.
The person you elect to be your proxy must be registered to vote and able to vote in this type of election.
Expat proxy vote: British expats can vote either by post or by appointing a UK-based proxy (Image: Getty)
Expat proxy vote: Problems arose ahead of the May 2019 European elections (Image: Getty)
What are the problems with postal votes?
The problems appeared ahead of the May 2019 European elections.
The UK was due to have left the EU by then and therefore not stand in the European election.
But a last-minute Brexit delay meant the UK was forced to stand, and a scramble to register voters began.
Overseas voters complained of being disenfranchised when postal ballots did not arrive on time.
Expat proxy vote: You need to apply for a proxy vote by 5pm on Wednesday, December 4 (Image: Getty)
A former Lewisham resident, who now lives in Brussels, registered for a postal vote in the Lewisham East by-election but never got to cast it.
He said: "My polling card did not arrive until a couple of days after the election had taken place.
"I felt angry and disenfranchised, and when I tried to organise an emergency proxy, I was told this was not possible as a 'postal vote had already been issued.'"
Anticipating a return of the same issues, some councils appealed to voters before the December 12 election had even been confirmed.
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In September, Lewisham Council in south London wrote to overseas voters: "Past performance of postal votes going overseas has not been great. Sometimes they arrive too late.
"Given the tight timetable for a snap election we do not recommend a postal vote unless you have 100 percent confidence in the postal service."
Islington Council in north London said it had contacted 1,700 overseas voters registered with it in September, and would write to them again if they did not sign up for a proxy.
A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said: "We reported on the challenges of ensuring that all UK voters living overseas are able to participate in electoral events following the May polls this year.
Expat proxy vote: Some local councils have written to overseas voters to urge them to choose the proxy option (Image: Getty)
"We have made recommendations to the government about improving overseas electors' access to the voting process, for example by voting at embassies and consulates, or the ability to download and print postal ballot papers."
No changes have been made ahead of the upcoming snap election.
Ballots for postal votes cannot be printed and distributed until the list of candidates is finalised, which won't be until after the November 14 candidate nominations, leaving even less time.
And adding to the postal vote woes, 97 percent of postal workers voted in favour of strike action last month in a dispute with Royal Mail bosses over pay and conditions.
If the strike went ahead before the election, it could jeopardise the delivery of postal votes.
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