If you’re a British expat living in France, you may be wondering whether you’ll be able to vote in the general election on the 12th December 2019. Here’s what you need to know if you want your voice to be heard.
Who is eligible to vote?
If you’re a permanent resident in France you can vote for up to 15 years after leaving the UK, so if you’re within that limit you can still register if:
- You’re a British or eligible Irish citizen
- You were registered to vote in the UK within the previous 15 years (unless you were too young to vote when you were last resident in the UK)
If you don’t meet the above criteria, you may not be allowed to vote.
How do I register to vote?
If you’re planning to vote in England, Scotland or Wales you can register to vote online. You must complete your registration by midnight on the 26th November (or by 5pm on the 26th November if you’re planning to vote via post) if you want to vote in the general election in December. You can still register with a paper form, but with postal strikes expected in December this could be risky.
If you want to vote in Northern Ireland, you can register online or via post. Your registration must be completed by 26th November.
How often do I need to register to vote?
If you’re in France as a private citizen you’ll need to renew your registration every year. If you’re a civil servant or serving in the armed forces the rules are different, and your registration to vote will come under a different category. The deadlines for this kind of registration are also the 26th November.
How do I submit my vote?
Unless you’re planning to travel back to the UK to vote, English, Scottish and Welsh voters have two options: postal vote or proxy voting. You’ll be asked to select which option you’d like when you register, after which you’ll be required to complete and return a paper form to apply for your proxy or postal vote. Because of this you’ll want to make sure you complete your registration with plenty of time to spare.
Please note that Northern Irish voters cannot vote via post, only by proxy. You will still be required to return a paper application for this.
Voting by post is relatively simple: you’ll be posted your ballot paper and you simply make your pick and send it back. However, in past years there have been reports of postal votes going astray or arriving too late. December is a particularly tricky time to use a postal vote, as Christmas mail rush and threatened postal worker strikes may affect the expediency of your ballot. Your paper application to vote by postal vote must be received by 5pm on 26th November, if you’re from England, Scotland or Wales, or by 5pm on the 21st November if you’re an Irish voter. Your postal vote must be received by your Electoral Office by 10pm on the 12th December.
Remember, when voting by post you must:
- Ensure your vote is made in secret
- Complete the postal voting statement
- Put you voting slip and statement into the envelope provided
- Seal the envelope yourself and ensure it’s properly closed
- Return your postal vote as quickly as you can to avoid disappointment
It’s also important to note that lost or damaged ballot papers/voting packs can be replaced by requesting a new one from your Electoral Office, but this can take time. If your voting pack doesn’t arrive you can request a new one up to four days before polling day, but this will be cutting it rather fine.
To apply for a proxy vote, your application form must be received by 5pm on 4th December, for English, Scottish and Welsh voters, and by 5pm on 21st November for Irish voters. You must select a proxy voter (i.e. someone to go and vote for you) who you trust, and who will reliably enter your vote for you at the polling station. They must also:
- Be registered to vote
- Be eligible to vote in the election taking place
- Be able to vote in the polling station on your poll card (or enter a proxy vote by post if they are unable to do this
If you want to cancel your proxy vote, or change who your select proxy is, you’ll need to contact your Electoral Office.
If you’re concerned about the reliability and speed of the postal system a proxy vote may be your best choice. Just be sure to choose the right person to act as your proxy.
When will the general election result be announced?
Typically votes are counted in two stages once the voting has concluded at 10pm on polling day. The count is usually completed in the small hours of the morning and announced shortly after, usually at around 2-4am.
This general election could have significant consequences for Brexit, and other matters affecting you as a UK citizen abroad. If you want to make sure your vote is counted, you’ll want to register to vote and choose your options carefully.
Please note all times are in GMT. If you are unsure of your eligibility to vote in the general election on 12th December 2019 contact your Electoral Office for help and guidance.