Voting while travelling

On 7th May 2015 there will be a general election in the UK to decide who will govern the country for the next five years. Since I intend to be living back in the UK for at least some of those five years, I want a say in choosing the government. Voting while travelling is not only possible, but fairly easy with a little organisation!

Beyond an interest in current affairs, I’m not an especially political person; I have no allegiance to any particular party (I believe this makes me a “floating voter” which sounds like a turd. Charming!) but I do, rather conversely, passionately believe in the act of voting. Get a couple of gins in me and you may be unlucky enough to hear one of my “people are dying around the world for the right to vote” rants, which are usually accompanied by rather scary eyes and calls for another gin. They are a thing of beauty, I promise you.

voting while travelling
Don’t listen to the man in the mask… ©2010 Lewishamdream via Flickr
Can I vote in the UK 2015 General Election?

Provided you are a British or Commonwealth citizen aged 18 or over, yes!

I don’t know who to vote for!

Me neither. They’re all lying swines etc etc…

Deciding “who” can be the hardest part of voting – manifestos are magnificently dull and long with minimal amusing illustrations. Happily, some kind soul wades through them for everyone else and you can use an online resource to check which parties most closely align with your beliefs. I like this resource, but plenty more will appear as the election campaign gets underway – a google of “who should I vote for?” should bring up helpful resources, and websites such as the Guardian often have links.

How do I go about voting while travelling?

Firstly, you’ll need to be registered on the electoral roll. You can register online here, which takes a few minutes. You can do this before departing as part of your pre-trip admin, or when already on the road, provided your internet connection is up to it!

We are technically homeless (having given up our rented London flat before we went away), and will be living between both of our parents houses when we eventually get back. They both live in the same electoral ward in Cheshire, so we have registered to vote at our respective parents addresses. Assuming your application goes through ok, you should be registered to vote from the day you apply.

Proxy or post?

If you won’t be in the UK on 7 May 2015, you can register to vote by post or proxy ahead of time. You’ll need to be registered on the electoral roll to do that, so register first. Now! People DIE for the right to vote you know! *scary eyes*.

A proxy is a trusted adult (over 18) who can physically go to your polling station and cast your vote on your behalf. The proxy vote must be cast in person at your polling station, so it makes sense to ask someone who lives close to you, or at the same address; a proxy probably shouldn’t live miles and miles away.

Proxy forms for a single election can be found and printed here (since we have no printer my lovely mum posted one out to us).These need to be returned to your local election office – you can confirm that here by typing in your post code, so we posted ours from Thailand when we came across a post office. The deadline for returning the voting forms is 5pm on Tuesday 28 April 2015.

In a postal vote, the Electoral Services will send you a voting form (usually a week or so before the election) which you need to return to them with your vote marked on it. In order for a postal vote to be effective, you will need to:

  1. Know where you will be in the weeks running up to an election, and be able to receive post at that address
  2. Be able to return the voting form back to the UK to arrive on or before election day – anything received after won’t count, so this is not an option for a destination with patchy postal service.

A postal vote would make sense if, say, you were going on holiday the day before an election, or would be living in one overseas location for an extended (but temporary) period of time such as an extended business trip (there are separate arrangements for Brits living overseas long term).

How have we registered to vote while travelling?

Given the transient nature of our travels, a postal vote wasn’t appropriate for us as we don’t know where we will be that far ahead. We have opted to register by proxy vote (this is also why we registered at our parents’ addresses – I don’t think they’d appreciate having to drive down to London to cast our votes!). Your proxy should be someone you trust, so I’ve asked my Mum. My Dad’s slightly “quirky” sense of humour might tempt him to vote Monster Raving Looney on my behalf. Or worse… UKIP.

Will you be voting while travelling this year?

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