'They are making it harder to vote' - Remain proxy voters group set up for overseas Brits
PUBLISHED: 09:21 08 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:20 08 November 2019
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A group has been set up to offer proxy votes for Remain-voting Britons living overseas.
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The UK government has been accused of making it deliberately harder for voters living abroad.
Citizens living abroad can vote in UK elections for up to 15 years after leaving the country, either by post or by appointing a UK based proxy to cast their ballot.
However, they cannot cast their vote at an embassy or consulate.
In order to ensure votes are not lost in the post and that they arrive on time, the new 'Remain proxy voters' group aims to link up overseas Brits living abroad with people who can cast their vote for them.
The group's founder, Nigel Grey, said: "The postal vote process for people overseas doesn't work and if you have no one in your support network who you can trust to vote for your selected remain candidate you are stuck.
"When people join we ask for their postcode and then we try to find them a close match in our database and put the two people in touch so they can agree to proceed or not."
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In the May 2019 European election, which the UK only took part in at the last minute when Brexit was extended, overseas voters complain about their postal ballots not arriving on time.
Politics website Politico has reported that several councils have warned overseas voters about voting by post.
"Past performance of postal votes going overseas has not been great. Sometimes they arrive too late," Lewisham Council told voters.
"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."
One former Lewisham resident now living in Brussels told Politico: "It does feel like the government is deliberately trying to make it harder for overseas voters to cast their votes.
"My polling card did not arrive until a couple of days after the [Lewisham East by-election] had taken place. I felt angry and disenfranchised, and when I tried to organize an emergency proxy, I was told this was not possible as a 'postal vote had already been issued."
The new Facebook group already has over 780 members, and hopes to solve some of these problems.
The Electoral Commission said: "Anyone can be your proxy as long as they are eligible to vote in the election and they are willing to vote on your behalf. Your proxy cannot be a proxy for more than two people at any one election, unless they are a close relative."
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