WITH just weeks to go before the European Parliamentary elections on Thursday 22 May, the Electoral Commission has launched an international campaign to encourage British citizens living overseas to register to vote.
To mark the start of the campaign, the elections watchdog is staging Overseas Registration Day on Wednesday 26 February in a bid to boost the numbers of expatriates on the UK’s electoral registers.
Samantha Mills, of the Electoral Commission, said: "Estimates show that there may be as many as 5.5 million UK citizens living overseas, but the latest figures showed that there were only around 20,000 on the UK electoral registers.
"Many of those living overseas do not even know that they may be eligible to vote in some UK elections, so it’s important that our campaign is as far-reaching as possible.
"This is why we are urging expats to take five minutes on Overseas Registration Day to visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/overseas and make sure they will be able to have their say."
Every British citizen who has been registered to vote in the UK within the last 15 years is eligible to vote in UK Parliamentary general elections and European Parliamentary elections.
Those who were too young to register when they left the UK can still register as an overseas voter as long as their parent or guardian was registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years.
Expats are being urged to download, fill in and return a registration form by Tuesday 6 May if they wish to exercise their right to vote. People living in the UK are also being asked to spread the word amongst their friends and family living overseas.
It is also important for expatriates to think about how they are going to cast their vote.
Ballot papers can be sent overseas but people must think about whether they have time to receive and return these papers by polling day.Those who think they might not have time may want to consider voting by proxy. This involves nominating a person they trust in the UK to vote on their behalf.