Discuss THE "SERVICE VOTING" STICKY (2005-2009) in Current Affairs, News and Analysis on The Army Rumour Service; UPDATE 8 FEB
NOW CONFIRMED BY MoD THAT ELECTORAL REGISTRATION FORMS GO DIRECT TO THE COUNCIL
As we thought! The civilian legislation is clear on this point, but it was possible that MOD genuinely were ...
NOW CONFIRMED BY MoD THAT ELECTORAL REGISTRATION FORMS GO DIRECT TO THE COUNCIL
As we thought! The civilian legislation is clear on this point, but it was possible that MOD genuinely were still instructing personnel to submit registration forms through the Service. Their out-of-date web pages to that effect have now been removed.
MOD have also removed previous 'advice' that Service voters only have to register one-time which remains in force throughout their service. We knew that bit had to be wrong, but a forces member or spouse who found the out-of-date web page might not have known that.
Thanks, MOD, for sorting this out. Our note below is now CANCELLED, but we'll leave it up for a while in case anyone is wondering what we were on about.
Although you only have to send in a form to the Council's Electoral Registration Officer in order to have your name added to the Electoral Register, there may still be a requirement to take action within your Unit, so that the system can keep track of your personal "voter status".
At the time of writing, the information available on official websites has been contradictory on this point. MOD are now updating their website. Info from different Council websites remains contradictory: most Councils, as well as the Electoral Commission, say that all registration forms should go direct to the Council.
We suggest you urgently check the recent DCI(JS) 01/05, and the MOD leaflets due out in "early February".
We've tracked down a bit more information on MOD-related websites, some OK, some of it contradictory, years out of date and hopelessly misleading.
With the new MOD leaflets about to come out, and MOD hopefully reviewing the website information [they now have - see revised links], we wont post any new links except for this "Factsheet: Voting overseas" from Army Families Federation, Cyprus. A short pdf document, well worth a read for anyone who still has questions, and it explains several points which are not usually covered -
For example, residence qualifications when moving from UK, annual re-registration paperwork, service dependants other than spouses. (We think their references to certain MOD forms, and to FTRS, are not now correct.) Also this about postal voting:
Be warned!! Legally your ERO can only issue postal votes after 5pm on the eleventh day before polling day so there is a strong chance that a postal vote will not have time to reach you overseas and be returned to the ERO by polling day.
Many Councils send out postal ballot paperwork at the first moment they are legally allowed to. But the last date for them to send the papers out is much later - from recollection, 4 working days before voting day. Chances of your postal vote counting in the election
If you are posted overseas, the alternative to postal voting is to appoint a 'proxy' to vote on your behalf. If you have a relative/friend/colleague who is in the UK, if you can rely on them and if you can contact them with your final voting decison, that is your best option. The proxy doesn't need to be in the constituency but if they are outside it, they will need to apply for a postal vote in good time, and you will need to let them know your voting decison earlier.
We understand you can change between postal and proxy voting at any time, basically before the election is announced. Act quickly if your circumstances have changed. UPDATE: Recent or imminent deployment? This comment applies both to Regulars, and to mobilised TA & Reservists. Anyone deploying now is 'rather unlikely' to get to the polling station for elections any time soon.
We've heard many other reports of postal votes arriving too late. Any more problems with postal or proxy voting in previous elections - post in our "discussion" thread or email -
We live in a democracy, and all adults over 18 have the right to choose their government and future policies. Yet, how many of us Army families use our vote? Many areas of society feel politicians play no part in their every day life, but those of us married or serving in the Armed Forces do not have this excuse. It is government policy, or their response to a crisis (anywhere in the world), that will send our soldiers to fire fighting, peace-keeping duties or to war.
For those of us overseas, this means a proxy vote via the Service Vote, or a postal vote arranged at your UK address. Each has its own drawbacks. A postal vote must be registered as if you were in the UK, but with arangements in place to redirect your papers to your overseas address. However, last time I tried this, I received my papers after the election. I have tried having a Service Vote with a proxy. But it is not a real vote: someone else has the power to put the X in the box, and in reality that means that the vote is not yours to control. Not for us the careful reading of the manifesto, and the chance to make a difference. Not for us a secret ballot. For many of us, it means that our Proxy will have the chance to vote twice for their own preferred candidate. Hardly democracy in action.
At the last General election I was in Germany with my husband, and I was angry that we had been disenfranchised. I find it odd that those who physically uphold the peace and the right to political democracy do not have those rights extended to both themselves and their families by their own country, to physically put a paper into a box. It is not as if the Army had only just arrived in Germany!
However, as a group we are not good at registering to vote. On European Parliament/local Councils election day in UK earlier this year, one large garrison in England had a stream of would-be voters that had to be turned away, because they did not have registration forms. No registration form, no vote. What a wasted opportunity.
2005 will, in all probability, be an election year and you will not have a vote unless you fill out the forms and register as a voter, whichever system you choose. We are different from the civilian population in that our families move often, sometimes at short notice, and occasionally several times in one year. So make sure your vote is not lost – it should be on your things to do list when moving.
AFF is aware that many Army families find the registration process difficult, and many tell us that, despite registering, for one reason or another they still could not vote. Have you always had to vote by proxy? Does your postal vote always arrive after the big day? Are you without a proxy vote because your family have served and lived outside the UK for several years? Do you think that it is right that you should always have to trust someone else to put your X where you want it?
Let us know! AFF needs your feedback to provide evidence so that we can take this subject forward.
Because we believe it's really important, something from our separate 'discussion' thread reproduced in full.
Includes more about the disadvantages of postal voting from overseas:
Just to emphasise how really urgent is the need to register
Personnel/spouses not on the current register are already too late to get their names added in time for any election in early March.
And they have less than FIVE weeks left [as at 5 Feb] to get their applications in the hands of the Council in time to vote in any 5 May election. If they choose to vote by proxy (generally recommended option for those overseas) and their proxy is not able to vote in person, the proxy needs to submit a postal voting application in time also.
Without going too far into the detail of the timetable prescribed by legislation, this from a Council website:
Please note that in 2005, there are local government elections scheduled for Thursday 5 May and it is widely expected that the next general election will also be on that day, although that will not be certain unless or until the Prime Minister makes an announcement. For any elections on 5 May, applications for registration will not be effective unless they are received by no later than Friday 11 March 2005.
2. For those who have already applied to vote by post, the postal ballot form cannot be issued by the 'returning officer' before 5pm on the eleventh day before polling day. Postal voting is therefore NOT generally considered a safe option for voters overseas. Without any need for legislation, MOD could look quickly into the feasibility of (voluntary) accelerated postal arrangements for votes by overseas personnel/adult dependants/employees, but this would be for them to advise, failing which I agree with warnings elsewhere about postal voting.
If you are serving or the partner of a serviceman or woman, or if you have service or family connections with them, you might like to help us with one or more of our (perfectly appropriate) questions which can be found at this link.
4. Any problems with ... your residence qualification? Comment from a HIVE: "What is most annoying to overseas servicemen and their families is where it says "You must register with an address where you have lived in the past or where you would live if you were not posted overseas". So after 11 years of marriage, do I still count Mummy's address as home? Or, can I covet my friends castle?"
This from a local authority (Canterbury City Council):
The advantage of registering as a service voter is that you can appoint a proxy without having to get your application signed by your employer. Also, the reminder to renew your registration is sent to your service address rather than the address at which you are registered and may be absent from for some time.
Our original advice now confirmed -electoral registration forms go direct to the Council, NOT through the unit, although units will provide information and assistance as necessary.
Some units may be prepared to distribute blank forms (a good idea, especially for deployed units), but for most people they are easily available by download from the links we have already provided.
When we saw the incorrect information on MOD web pages and at least one Council webpage, without changing our original advice we had no responsible option but to mention that the chain of command might just still expect the form to go through the military system.
MOD have now sorted this out, and an updated page (which says much the same as we said all along) is now prominent on their website.
As this thread on the 'ARRSE' website is mainly intended for serving personnel and their partners, we'd like to mention the "HEROES OF DEMOCRACY" nominations newly opened in our separate EXERCISING YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE discussion.
From new webpage in Serving Soldier section of public MOD website:
Originally Posted by MOD
Want a Vote? Register Now
Don't Miss May elections deadline of March 11
Service personnel have until March 11 to register if they want to vote in local elections due to be held in May. The same date would apply if a general election was called for that month.
A Defence Council Instruction (JS DCI 01/05 "Electoral Registration") was issued at the end of last month setting out eligibility guidelines and registration options. Information leaflets will also be distributed to all units.
Servicemen and women and spouses may register as Service voters by completing a yearly declaration form, which has to be returned to the relevant local council electoral registration office. their qualifying address is the one in the UK they would be living at if they were not in the Armed Forces.
Since 2001, they have also had the option of registering in the same way as civilian voters if they live at a private or other qualifying address or in Service families or single-living accommodation.
Those posted abroad who do not wish to register as Service voters may do so as "overseas electors", but may vote only in UK and European Parliamentary elections. They do not qualify to vote in British local elections.
Service personnel and spouses abroad or away from their UK residence during an election may also elect to vote by post or proxy.
Units have been instructed to give personnel and dependants "every reasonable assistance" to register, and to draw the procedures to the attention of all new entrants to the Services.
Although relevant forms are available from electoral registration offices (of which units should have lists), units may also hold their own stocks.
MOD's links to information about local electoral registration offices omitted - currently, one link is broken and the other list is unreliable.
Better to visit aboutmyvote.co.uk if you can't get the info locally.
Someone has asked the reasonable question: "Do arrse have an agreed/suggested text for adjts/arrse users etc to post a notice in Unit Routine and Standing Orders..."
We wouldn't of course dream of telling any unit what to put in their own Orders!!! No doubt something has come down through the chain of command of the three Services. Including DCI(JS) 01/05.
For what it's worth, we think the webpage in the recently updated MOD "Serving Soldier" section - see preceding 'post' in this thread - is a good guide to what people need to know at this time -
• Obviously, making sure everyone knows where the DCI can be seen locally, and "every reasonable assistance" obtained. Also if, as mentioned by MOD, copies of the forms are held locally. Units needn't all print off hundreds of copies - nearly all forms are available in electronic form from www.aboutmyvote.co.uk , for printing off as necessary.
• Within UK garrisons or units currently deployed from UK garrisons, it might be a good idea to add contacts for the local Electoral Registration Officer - but without giving the wrong impression that everyone has to register locally.
• We suggest also including a reminder to all married personnel to make sure their spouses or dependants of voting age are briefed. ("Dependants of voting age" - includes adult sons/daughters who don't have the same registration options as married partners, but some of them could also be missing out on their vote?)
• Even those who are already registered should consider whether they need to arrange a proxy or postal vote, or change to proxy voting. Particularly those who have recently moved or deployed, or are about to. Including TA and reservists, FTRS. (Unit should be prepared to provide Reserve forces members with (civilian) proxy voting forms, to be signed off by military employer.)
Hope some of these suggestions are helpful. We'd welcome any feedback. We're now taking "Heroes of Democracy" nominations!
Again 'not teaching any grannies to suck eggs': our members' (appropriate) contacts so far within units, in more than one service, suggests a good level of management awareness:
But we dont think publishing a notice is enough. There are of course the leaflets coming out, and we think this also deserves word of mouth support at subunit as well as unit level. No-one is being told to register (although it can be a criminal offence not to), but it's perfectly proper to encourage. We believe a similar appropriately-proactive approach will need to be taken throughout the voting period.
Dont, of course, overlook Commonwealth and ROI nationals, who are entitled to register and vote in UK parliamentary elections. firstname.lastname@example.org