DURING June’s snap general election, many postal votes didn’t arrive at BFPO locations with enough time to be sent back and be counted.
For many soldiers and families, proxy voting isn’t an option and many worry that their proxy may not choose to vote as they were asked, putting their own preference instead.
Voting is a very personal thing and not everyone is comfortable sharing their voting preference with someone, particularly if they may be of a different political persuasion.
In addition, some soldiers on operations may not have access to the internet to be able to change their voting preference from postal to proxy. Personnel and families are left unable to vote from overseas.
This isn’t a new problem. Why hasn’t someone looked into this and been able to offer a solution?
Why can’t polling stations be set up overseas to make sure everyone’s vote can count? With technology nowadays, there must be a better way. Votes shouldn’t be taken away because someone has chosen to serve their country.
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Response from Electoral Commission: We’re sorry to hear about the issues faced by families overseas. It is important that everyone’s vote counts and the Electoral Commission advises Returning Officers (ROs) to prioritise issuing postal ballot packs for Service voters overseas to allow the maximum amount of time for them to be completed and returned.
However, by law, ROs cannot send out postal votes until after the close of nominations, which is 19 working days before polling day for a General Election. Only at this point are details of candidates standing for election confirmed, meaning ballot papers can be finalised and printed.
We understand proxy voting isn’t everyone’s preferred method of voting, but sometimes unforeseen circumstances mean postal ballot packs arrive late.
We therefore encourage Service voters and their families to consider voting by proxy as it removes any concern that ballot papers won’t arrive in time to be counted. We will continue to work with the government to identify steps to improve access to voting for overseas and Service electors.
AFF view from Chief Executive Sara Baade: From our post-election survey, postal voting was by far the most desirable way of voting for families overseas. AFF has shared the outcome of this survey with the MOD and also raised the issue previously with the covenant reference group.
Whilst we understand that the snap election was an unexpected situation, we will go back to the table with all this evidence to ask for more consideration to be given for those families who are serving overseas.