Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Where Should the Armed Forces Register to Vote?

I just received this email from a member of the armed forces. I'm not sure how to advise him. Can anyone help? I don't think he's right about registering in any constituency he wishes. Surely he has to register where he last lived in the UK?

Dear Iain,


Firstly can I say how much I enjoy your blog. I must admit to haven pretty much given up on following politics until I discovered the political blogosphere - I often find MSM quite nauseating.

Although I was a 'conscientious objector' to voting in the last two elections I now believe that the Conservatives have a real chance. I'm a member of the forces serving overseas and I believe that I can register to vote by post in any constituency I wish. So my question to you is where should I register? I've spent the greater part of my 14 years service abroad and can't remember one occasion where 'we' were specifically targeted by a political party - a bit strange when there are several thousand of votes at stake which could potentially be directed to key constituencies.


38 comments:

bryboy said...

Register to vote in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath mate and get all your mates to do the same!

Anonymous said...

Google's first result for "registering to vote as armed forces member": http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/pcsearch/EntryPage.cfm?CFID=13595301&CFTOKEN=65378396 - "http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/pcsearch/EntryPage.cfm?CFID=13595301&CFTOKEN=65378396".

rob's uncle said...

The Electoral Commission [http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/pcsearch/EntryPage.cfm?CFID=13595304&CFTOKEN=35897222 ] makes it clear that members of the Armed Forces should register at 'the address where you would be living if you were not posted overseas.'

frank o'file said...

French ex pats can register wherever they choose - hence their intermittent popularity with eager candidates in marginal seats.

But I thought your party is 100% confident that it has the next election in the bag so it doesn't really matter where our noble Tommies cast their Xs does it?

Dipesh said...

Your correspondent would have to register as a service voter, and his would cast his vote for the constituency that covers the address where he was last registered as an elector in the UK, or where a parent/guardian was registered.

Chris K said...

The relevant form is:

http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/documents/Combined-Service-Voter-Declaration-Postal-And-Proxy-Forms.pdf

and it says he can register to vote at the address where he is living or has recently lived, regardless of where he is posted.

That's conveniently flexible but not the same as "pick any constituency you like".

Anonymous said...

bryboy, a nice idea, but less useful than spreading votes around some key marginals ?

I'm sure the marginals concerned could 'adopt' soldiers likely to vote for a better deal for the armed forces..

ezra said...

You accuse Brown of gerrymandering this morning then support this form of vote rigging?

Iain Dale said...

Ezra, read my post. I haven't supported anything. I merely asked people what the system is on his behalf! Don't ascribe motives to me I do not have!

Unsworth said...

Iain, there are many on ARRSE who can help with this, see: http://www.arrse.co.uk/

It's a popular and robust military forum which is packed with information and comment. As you might expect, some of the comment is fairly unsuitable for family viewing but there's a great deal of real horse sense too.

Charlie Root said...

You should get a gig on Radio 2 Dale;

"hi steve, love the show"

BOF2BS said...

Electoral commission:
http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/

Aboutmyvote:

"If you are a member of the Armed Forces, a Crown Servant or a British Council employee, please enter the postcode for the address where you would be living if you were not posted overseas."

Presumably then get on register of electors in that Local Authority area.

http://www.conservativesabroad.org/
Might also be worth following up.

Anonymous said...

Vote Tory.

stevie

Man in a Shed said...

Iain at the last General election - when forces were heavily committed in Iraq over 65% of the forces were not registered to vote - mainly due to changes introduced by the Labour government.

Could that perhaps have been linked to the way Labour expected them to vote ? After all Labour have introduced an electoral system that allows fraud on a scale that shames a banana republic - just to get a few more votes for their people.

Forces Postal Voter said...

I'd read the various Electoral Commission publications before I emailed Iain. I find them particularly woolly and miss the point that many Service voters have very few roots. I've moved 8 times in my 14 years in the Forces and have no attachment to any area. Where would I be living if I wasn't serving in the Forces? I have no idea. I suspect that I'll register at one of my siblings addresses - probably the one where my vote might make a difference.

asquith said...

On a wholly unrelated note, what happened to the Daley Dozen? I think we should be told!

Geoff said...

I see that the question has been well answered already so I'll just drop an anecdote - I fought 3 local elections in Gosport where my area included HMS Sultan - the largest land base in western Europe.

There were many people on the electoral roll listed as "Officers Mess, HMS Sultan" and "Senior Rates Mess..." etc etc. That was their last base so bof2bs is spot on: if that was their last base then even if they were temporarily away blowing things up then the vote was in my area.

It made canvassing tricky though :-)

You'll have to register at each new base when your boots hit UK soil and apply for a postal vote if you are somewhere hot and dusty so do us a favour and get posted somewhere marginal next time.

bof2bs makes a second good point. ConservativesAbroad website is designed by a fellow Gib resident so if we can't find a way to legally and correctly register a member of the Forces on the move then it can't be done! Drop us an email.

stuart said...

As he's a Tory I would suggest either Richmond (North Yorkshire) or Bootle.

Labour apparatchik said...

Nowhere!

All you squaddies vote Tory, why do you think we made it so hard for you to register to vote in the first place?

Anonymous said...

Labour apparatchik "All you squaddies vote Tory"

Oi, I floated! No mud or sand for me.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it about time you issued a clear and unequivocal denunciation and repudiation of the views of that evil Medway councillor to whom the values of human rights are clearly an alien concept ??

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous (what a surprise), er, what makes you think I have to issue a denunciation or comment on everything - especially the deranged rantings of a local councillor?! As it happens I did a piece for BBC South East on this and made my views abundantly clear.

Praguetory said...

Please see my webpage for a Conservatives Abroad link.

http://praguetory.blogspot.com/2007/10/dont-leave-your-vote-at-home.html

Disgracefully, he will need to organise a proxy as you can't vote in overseas embassies or barracks and postal votes won't generally get back in time.

Praguetory said...

Other factoids include that you have to register by October each year to be on for the following year and that you need to reregister every year.

For non-service personnel you'll be given a vote for where you were last registered to vote (a Lab marginal in my case), which is why I will think carefully before registering for any new UK address if I return.

Anonymous said...

Iain Dale said...
"As it happens I did a piece for BBC South East on this and made my views abundantly clear."

What are your views on your erstwhile contributor to this blog?

Iain Dale said...

the words "deranged rantings" should tell you all you need to know!

Anonymous said...

frank o'file said...
"French ex pats can register wherever they choose - hence their intermittent popularity with eager candidates in marginal seats."

They can't. It has to be the constituency where they were last on the electoral register when resident in the UK.

Geoff said...

Iain, I apologise that my post at 8:14 came up as 'anonymous' - my error. It's Geoff from Gib.

However especially with TotalPolitics upcoming may I respectfully suggest you revisit the idea of only registered posters? I think that many of us are getting put off by trawling through the comments of trolling idiots.

Ideally a free-flowing open living blog is perfect but you and CH seem to be specifically targetted for abuse at the moment.

Anonymous said...

"the words "deranged rantings" should tell you all you need to know!"

Sounds like a fugitive from Guido's blog.

Adrian Yalland said...

He should register at his 'home address' like everyone else! This would be where he lives when he is not overseas!

What is worrying though is that the military is not communicating this info to the troops.

THose who defend democracy should have every opportunity to partake in democratic processes the defend.

javelin said...

Hasn't Jack Straw published a list of 7500 votes that would lose them the election. Just post that up.

Anonymous said...

Go to http://www.arrse.co.uk/cpgn2/Forums/viewtopic/t=12334.html and read the thread - the same people who put the Service vote campaign together, some of them, are also involved in the British Armed Forces Federation - which is not a union - and have made a real difference. The man to consult directly for advice is a hugely busy retired senior officer who goes under the nickname "hackle" on Arrse. Join Arrse and drop him a PM. I'd encourage you to join the BAFF as well. Cracking value at 30 quid - check out the BAFF website at http@//www.baff.org.uk .

Incidentally, for Adrian Yalland, the Forces are very keen on having their people able to vote, the issue seems to be convincing the political establishment.

Furthermore, to some of the other points upthread, if you are in the position I was in for quite a long time during my Regular service, as a divorced senior NCO with no family, I had no UK address, nor any UK address where I might stay when I was away from my base in Germany - I was thus effectively disenfranchised.

Chris Paul said...

Any constituency? Really? Is that actually correct?

Chris K said...

No chris paul, it isn't correct.

If you read the comments before posting you would have found the right answer several times over and links to the form the guy needs to fill in...

McSweeney said...

You probably could technically register any where in the country but you have to give an actual address on the form and that has to exist when they check it.

http://www.dopolitics.org.uk/templates/search/document.cfm/17782

jane said...

but you can register as an overseas voter, irrespective of membership of the armed forces, and it has to be in the constituency where you were last registered in the UK. This means you don't need a postal or proxy vote. But if you are resident overseas you cannot vote in UK local elections - if your address outside the UK is in the EU you can vote in local elections in whicever EU country you are in and can choose in European elections whether to vote in that country or in the UK. The latter would apply to UK forces in Germany and Cyprus for example.

Anonymous said...

In my experience squaddies hate Brown but wouldn't dream of voting Conservative.

HH said...

LOL! Why are people assuming that they know more than the person at the sharp end, who will be getting official info?

Try http://www.rafcom.co.uk/posting_relocation/voting.cfm which mentions in passing both that the holder of a service vote does not have to be overseas and that they do not have to be a service person -- they can be a spouse (or a civilian and their spouse abroad in certain government posts).

The rules as being described above seem totally unenforceable, how on earth would you check them? This is true also of the About My Vote website. I suspect you are hearing interpretations of the same rules that were in force when I was a service voter up until 9 years ago. You were allowed to register in any constituency with which you felt an affinity -- that is to say the choice was effectively unrestricted. Most probably you would choose one of: where you grew up, where you have lived at one point, where you hope to make your home eventually. These are the places where you are likely to have an interest in who is the MP. Obviously you had to have a local contact address to which the papers and voting cards were sent, so in practice this would usually be a relative, but no relationship was specified. The normal routine before the new postal voting rules was to arrange for a proxy vote to be issued to the person whose address you used, although this did not prevent you voting there in person if you were available.

"Where you would be living"? is not very different from what I described, and for most people where they kept their vote would be the same address that they used as their permanent address for all important documents, so it was home of a sort.

Ignorance about this system shows in the fact that no-one above has mentioned one suprising aspect which mattered a great deal at the height of the IRA bombings -- service voters can request that their details do not appear on the published lists.